The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College Madog Center for Welsh Studies Faculty Fellowship presents a member of Rio’s full-time faculty with a fellowship each year to engage in original research and scholarship related to Wales and Welsh culture. The faculty member is selected based on an application and research proposal submitted to the Madog Faculty Fellow committee. For the 2017-2018 recognition, Professor of History Dr. Scott Beekman was selected to present, “The Strangler: Evan Lewis and the Birth of Wrestling Villainy.” Beekman said the presentation is a continuation of his ongoing research on wrestling history.
“This was a great opportunity to go deeper into research I was already doing. The larger project focuses on William Muldoon, and I ran across the 1888-1889 period where he was on a wrestling tour with Evan Lewis. I decided to research Lewis more thoroughly because he is the first real ‘villain’ of professional wrestling and learned he had Welsh ancestry. The project fell into place from there,” Beekman said. “If I want to be an effective professor, I need to be engaged active scholarship. I’m glad Rio gives the faculty these kinds of research opportunities because our students benefit from our continuing work within our respective fields.”
Beekman’s presentation told the story of Lewis’s wrestling career. Lewis, born in Wisconsin in 1852 to Welsh immigrants, was the first professional wrestler to realized he could attract larger crowds by portraying the villain everyone wanted to see lose the match. He would use different holds that could cause serious injury to his opponents, most famously the “stranglehold,” in which he applied simultaneous pressure to arteries and the windpipe, forcing them to choose between losing the match or losing consciousness.
The faculty member is chosen in the spring, and then gives his or her presentation to campus the following spring semester. This year, Beekman also presented his research at the National Conference for the Popular Culture Association in Indianapolis, Indiana. The conference includes speakers from across their world presenting research in a wide range of cultural studies.
“The Popular Culture Association’s conference is the biggest conference for cultural theorists, so having the opportunity to present this research there is a huge honor. Culture, music, art and sports, play a significant role in our daily lives. Several sports have large groups of scholars that focus on those histories. Now, some historians are looking into the 19th century wrestling because it’s basically an unwritten history, yet it is important because it’s the real beginning of the professional wrestling we know today. I’m excited to help build that foundation,” Beekman said. “I’m also very excited that this will be my first conference presenting on behalf of the Madog Center, so I’m proud to represent both the university and our center for Welsh Studies.”
Beekman is the Madog Center’s fifteenth faculty fellow since the fellowship began in the 2003-2004 school year. Last year’s presentation featured two professors, Benjy Davies and Kevin Lyles, as joint faculty fellows. Beekman said he was grateful for the opportunity to share the story of a descendant of Welsh immigrants and Welsh culture with both Rio and the Popular Culture Association.
“Welsh culture is important to this area because there is a long history of Welsh immigrants. Nationwide though, the significance of Welsh immigration to the United States can get overlooked. Groups like the Madog Center that help bring awareness to Welsh heritage are such a positive thing, and I think it’s wonderful that we have a large center focused on this group here on our campus,” Beekman said. “The Madog Center allows Rio to connect with community members who share that Welsh Heritage.”
Beekman first joined the Rio faculty in 2007. While at Rio, he has been awarded the Edwin A. Jones Excellence in Teaching Award in 2016 and the Ernie Wyant Excellence in Teaching Award in 2011.
For more information on the Madog Center for Welsh Studies or the History Department, contact the Office of Admissions at 740-245-7208.