Morris Pierce is an Assistant Professor of History and the University’s Energy Manager. He has successfully linked the two topics both in his research and his teaching. Pierce received his bachelor’s degree from West Point Military Academy and earned his PhD in history from the University of Rochester. He currently teaches a course in American military history.

What do you think is the best part about the American Military History course?

In this particular course, the best paper is the interview paper, where people track down a veteran and ask them questions. There are always the hidden gems where students talk to their relatives and they learn things about them they never knew. Some are hilarious, some are horrifying, but it’s always great when students can learn a little about their own history.

What made you decide to go to West Point?

I actually joined the Army first. My theory, at the time, was that West Point would always be there, but the war in Vietnam wouldn’t last that long, so I should join the Army and go to the war first. I served in a ranger unit and did long-range reconnaissance patrol. It was a tremendous experience for an 18-year old to be out in a war zone like that. Then I went back to West Point and got an excellent education. After I got out, I started working as an engineer, but what I really wanted to be was a historian, so I entered the graduate program at UR.

How did you become interested in the history of energy?

Because I was UR’s energy manager, I was initially teaching about energy and the environment. One of my students was writing a paper on the 19th century American inventor Birdsall Holly but couldn’t find very much information, so I started looking and literally fell right into my current career by helping my student. I ended up writing my doctoral dissertation on Holly and his inventions in history.

In what other ways do you link energy and history?

History and energy are closely connected. In my course I show students that World War II started because Germany and Japan didn’t have any oil, so they went to war to get it. You can see this today in that we’ve used up all our oil and now we’re fighting in places that have oil.

What projects are you currently working on as Energy Manager?

On campus, sustainability is a big issue. It’s really fun to work in a place where you have a lot of smart students and an administration that actually understands and recognizes that universities need to ensure that it happens. We’re currently working on converting more buildings from steam to hot water, which will be more efficient. We’re also looking at lighting renovations, and the management of airflow in laboratories. There are a lot of spaces [on campus] where we waste a lot of energy. The more time we can put into the infrastructure today, the better off we’ll be.

Fischer is a member of the class of 2008.

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