Tenacity Helps History Major Find His Path: Benjamin Kellerhals, '23

May 6, 2023
Benjamin Kellerhals

Benjamin Kellerhals

Photo by Alicia Raber

Benjamin Kellerhals, who is graduating magna cum laude with majors in history and Africana Studies, is the recipient of the SBS Tenacity Award for spring 2023. This award recognizes a graduating senior in the College of SBS who has persevered in the face of significant adversity to earn their university degree.  

Ben had an unstable living situation growing up, but he said that his passion for historical literacy and social change has always kept him focused through personal struggles.

At the University of Arizona, he has been a part of the Thrive Guides and First Cats Programs, which helps financially struggling/independent students, as well as first-generation college students.

"Mr. Kellerhals is a remarkable student, who has overcome considerable odds to earn his college degree," wrote History Professor David Gibbs. "Mr. Kellerhals’ work in my classes [History of American Foreign Relations and History of American Capitalism] was consistently outstanding. He is also an engaging participant in class discussions, always asking incisive questions. He has a passionate interest in social justice and racial equality, an interest that he has held since high school."

Ben was an intern with the Institute for Public Accuracy in Washington, DC, and the National History Academy. He won the Presidential Honors Award of the NHA, as well as a Wildcat Excellence Award.

For his senior research capstone, he investigated how American historical sites use primary sources to present chattel slavery, and what those choices mean for broader American culture.

"Ben Kellerhals wrote an excellent paper examining how different public sites memorialize slavery and tell a national story about slavery via historical artifacts and texts," wrote History Professor Benjamin Lawrance.

"My experience with the college of SBS and the History department has been extremely rewarding, as I’ve had the chance to work closely with a variety of scholars who have greatly influenced my own passions and goals," Ben said. "Professors like Dr. Gibbs, Dr. Steptoe, and Dr. Lawrance are incredibly effective educators, who have helped to provide me with a template for how an academic career based in an awareness of societal injustice can affect change."

Ben is looking into Ph.D. programs in history and political science, with interest in a possible academic career. His future career goals center around remembering the Civil Rights Movement, increasing civic literacy, and anti-racist activism. He will be continuing as an intern with the National History Academy this summer.