By Carrie Click

Flyer promoting Patty Limerick talk at CMC RilfeIt’s not easy to pigeonhole Patty Limerick. She’s a tough Western woman and a Yale graduate. She’s known as being energetically funny, and she’s highly educated too, proving that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Best of all, Dr. Limerick takes a balanced, academic look at tough issues, helping guide others to more fully understand. The faculty director and chair of the board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, she’s also a professor of history. She exemplifies the quintessentially objective educator ­– so balanced in her approach to controversial issues that it is often difficult to tell where she stands.

And that’s often her point. She lets the facts speak for themselves and respectful dialog shape the discussion.

“We have been longtime admirers of Patty’s work and we decided to see if we could get her to travel to the Western Slope,” said Nancy Genova, campus vice president of Colorado Mountain College in Rifle. “Her work in applying historical perspectives to current issues seemed a good way to guide us in building a framework in which to discuss community issues in a constructive way.

On Aug. 23, Limerick will be at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle as the keynote speaker of a free community event. “Oil and Gas: The Adventures of a Historian in Tense Terrain” will include a discussion with three panelists who are experts in hydraulic fracturing, health and water issues as they relate to the oil and gas industry. Community members are invited to attend the event, which is being presented in a spirit of learning and respect, said Genova.

Understanding, common interests, humor essential to constructive discussion

Limerick has dedicated her career to demonstrating the benefits of applying historical perspective to contemporary dilemmas and conflicts. Among her books is “The Legacy of Conquest,” an overview and reinterpretation of Western American history.

Most recently, since February 2013, the Center of the American West has hosted an ongoing lecture series of more than 20 events in Greeley and Boulder called “FrackingSENSE: What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and What We Hope to Learn about Natural Gas Development.” Besides Limerick, some familiar names have been on the docket, including Kirby Wynn, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who hasn’t shied away from the fracking debate. The podium isn’t reserved for one side or the other: At a FrackingSENSE discussion this past May, Matt Lepore, the director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, shared the stage with Gary Graham, a member of Western Resource Advocates and the former executive director of Audubon Colorado.

Limerick’s Center of the American West knows that discussions about the oil and gas industry have the potential to become heated, so the group’s mission statement is clear: “We at the center believe that an understanding of the historical origins of the West’s problems, an emphasis on the common interests of all parties, and a dose of good humor are essential to constructive public discussion.”

At the upcoming event in Rifle, Limerick’s talk will be followed by input from experts on energy industry-related topics including health, hydraulic fracturing and water issues. Also taking part in the community conversation are Dr. Teresa Coons, executive director, John McConnell Math & Science Center of Western Colorado; Adrianne Kroepsch, research and teaching assistant at the Center of the American West; and Hannah Holm, coordinator and co-founder of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.

“Oil and Gas: The Adventures of a Historian in Tense Terrain” runs from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 23, at the Clough Auditorium, Colorado Mountain College, 3695 Airport Road in Rifle. It is presented by Colorado Mountain College, the Center of the American West and the National Science Foundation, with the intent to facilitate factual, academic and science-based dialog in a respectful and orderly fashion. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the speaker(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or Colorado Mountain College.

 For more information, go to The event is free of charge.