Ellen Poteet, a 1998 U-M History PhD and a lecturer in the department since 2006, passed away at the beginning of April. 

Her graduate work focused on the early Christian world, but she taught on a wide range of topics including ancient and medieval Africa, nomads in the modern world, African revolutionaries in the twentieth century, and medieval Europe and the Byzantine Empire.

“Ellen was an extraordinarily dedicated and creative teacher,” said Interim Chair Joshua Cole.

“In one five year period between 2017 and 2022, she taught no less than fourteen different courses. Ellen patiently provided pathways for Michigan undergraduates into complex worlds. She much preferred discussion to lecture, and showed students by example that listening and engagement were essential to historical understanding," said Cole.

In 2018 the department’s majors presented her with the Undergraduate Teaching Award, a prize that is entirely overseen by students and awarded to a faculty member for exceptional, challenging, and innovative teaching. 

On many occasions, Professor Poteet took a year away from teaching at U-M to volunteer her time teaching English and French to children and incarcerated adults in Cameroon. It was here that she became ill and passed away. 

Professor Poteet’s friends, colleagues, and students are invited to sign a memorial book in the department office at 1029 Tisch Hall. Those who cannot come to campus may leave a remembrance online; these will be printed and added to the book. 

The department is planning a formal memorial for Professor Poteet at a later date, and the fall 2024 History Matters magazine will include a longer feature on her life and work.