Mary Jo Festle

Maude Sharpe Powell Professor, Professor of History and Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning
Belk Pavilion-Teaching&Learning 102
2610 Campus Box
Elon, NC 27244 (336) 278-6423

Brief Biography

I'm a professor of History at Elon University and have been since 1993. After growing up in Chicago (as a fanatical Cubs fan), I attended Knox College as an undergraduate and completed an interdisciplinary independent major in Social Change.

Then I studied 20th century U.S. history at UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis on the Black civil rights movement. My doctoral dissertation combined my interests in twentieth century history, sex, race, class, and culture by focusing on the changes in women's sports since 1950.

More recently, I've been interested in oral history methodology, medical history, and the history of disability. Palgrave has published my recent book, Second Wind: Oral Histories of Lung Transplant Survivors.

At Elon, I've enjoyed teaching a wide variety of courses related to U.S. history as well as some interdisciplinary courses. I've participated in travel courses and served as coordinator of the Women's and Gender Studies Program and director of the Honors Program. I currently am serving as Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.


  • Ph.D. History, May 1993, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Major Field: U.S. History (Specialty: 20th century Social Movements)
    Dissertation: "Politics and Apologies: Women's Sports in the United States, 1950-1985" - Advisor: Peter G. Filene
  • M.A. History, May 1985. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Thesis: "'Unconventional Politics': The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, 1963-66" - Advisor: William E. Leuchtenburg
  • B.A. Social Change (interdisciplinary, independent major), June 1983, Knox College, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
    Honors Thesis: "Overcoming Class Differences in the Interests of Working Women: The Chicago Women's Trade Union League" - Advisors: Penny Gold, Henry Houser

Employment History

Elon University

  • Professor of History, Elon University, 2005-present
  • Associate Director, Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, 2011-present
  • Director, Honors Program, 2004-2008
  • Associate Director, Honors Program, 2003-4
  • Associate Professor of History, 2000-2005
  • Coordinator, Women's/Gender Studies
  • Assistant Professor of History, 1993-2000

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

  • Instructor in History, Spring 1992 and 1993
  • Teaching Assistant, 1984-91

Courses Taught

Elon University



Articles and Essays         

  • “Lung Transplantation in the United States: The Historical, Personal, and Political.” The Edgar S. and Ruth W. Burkhardt Lecture Series. Galesburg, Illinois:  Knox College, 2011.
  • Enemies or Allies?  The Organ Transplant Medical Community, the Federal Government, and the Public in the U.S., 1967-2000Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 65 (January 2010): 48-80.
  • “Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert: Friendly Rivals Advancing Their Sport.” In David K. Wiggins and R. Pierre Rodgers, editors, Rivals: Legendary Matchups That Made Sports History, 109-131. University of Arkansas Press, 2010.
  • “Getting More for Less: When Downsizing in Honors Yields Growth.”  Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council  8, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 2007): 57-66.  Co-authored with Janet Myers.
  • “‘Jackie Robinson Without the Charm’: The Challenges of Being Althea Gibson.” In Out of the Shadows; A Biographical History of African American Athlete, edited by David K. Wiggins, 187-205.  University of Arkansas Press, 2006.
  • “Listening to the Civil Rights Movement.” Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 12, no. 5 (November-December 2005): 10-15.
  • “Qualifying the Quantifying: Assessing the Quality of Life of Lung Transplant Recipients.” Oral History Review 29, no.1 (Winter/Spring 2002): 59-86.
  • “First Try at a Second Chance: The Pioneering Lung Transplant.” Journal of Mississippi History 64, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 81-106.  Winner of the Halsell Prize for best article in Mississippi history in 2002.
  • Introduction.  In Great Women in the Sport of Kings: America’s Top Women Jockeys Tell Their Stories, edited by Scooter Toby Davidson, xv-xxv.  Syracuse University Press, 1999.
  • "Reading Reconstruction with Students." The Journal of American History 84, no. 4 (March 1997): 1353-1356.
  • “We Deserve to Know Women’s Stories.” Greensboro News and Record, March 4, 2001, H1, 8.

Teaching materials

  • Carolyn Stuart and Mary Jo Festle, “Disability: Past and Present” Honors in Practice, Volume 3 (2007): 165-169. 

Book Reviews

  • William L. Andrews, et al., eds.  North Carolina Slave Narratives: The Lives of Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, Moses Grandy, and Thomas H. Jones. In Journal of Southern History 71, no. 1 (February 2005): 153-4.
  • Susan Brownell, Training the Body for China, Jennifer Hargreaves, Sporting Females; Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women's Sports, and Mariah Burton Nelson, The Stronger Women Get, The More Men Love Football. In Signs 22, no. 3 (Spring 1997): 777-781.
  • “Females in Sports:  A Book Review.”  In Patricia Ojea, ed. Annual Editions: Women’s Studies 99/00. Dushkin McGraw-Hill, 1998 (reprint of article from Signs).
  • Laura F. Edwards, Gendered Strife and Confusion; The Political Culture of Reconstruction. In The North Carolina Historical Review 74, no. 4 (October 1997): 447-8
  • Gai Berlage, Women in Baseball.  In The Journal of American History 82, no. 1 (June 1995): 265-6.
  • David Gollaher, Voice for the Mad:  The Life of Dorothea Dix.  In The North Carolina Historical Review, 73, no. 4 (October 1996): 503-4.


  • Lung Transplantation in the United States:  The Historical, Personal, and Political,” Invited Burkhardt Lecture, Knox College, January 13, 2011.
  • “Equality, Difference and Power in Women’s Intercollegiate Sports in the 1970s,” Elon University Voices of Diversity Series, November 12, 2010.
  • “Second Wind: History of Lung Transplantation,” Elon University, August 27, 2010.
  • “Chat in the Stacks: What I’ve Learned about People with Life-Threatening Illness, Oral History Research, and Myself,” Elon University, April 5, 2004.
  • “Similarities and Differences Revealed in Interviews with Lung Transplant Candidates and Recipients,” Second Wind Lung Transplant Association, Durham, July 10, 2001.
  • “We’ve Come a Long Way—Changes in Sports,” Talk for National Girls’ and Women’s Sports Day, Elon College, February 3, 2001.
  •  “Remembering Our Mothers: The Importance of Women’s History,” sponsored by Women’s Resource Center of Alamance County, Elon College, January 9, 2001.
  • “Preserving Our Stories: Oral History Workshop,” sponsored by Women’s Resource Center of Alamance County, Elon College, January 23, 2001.
  • “Early Lung Transplants: Courageous or Crazy?” sponsored by Elon College Faculty Research and Development Committee, August 25, 2000.
  • “The Internal War,” presentation for Alamance County public school Social Studies teachers, Turrentine Middle School, August 10, 1999.
  • “Ethical and Psychological Issues Arising from Interviewing Lung Transplant Candidates and Recipients,” Oral History Association Annual Meeting, Buffalo, New York, October 15, 1998.
  • "Conflicting Images?  The Female as Athlete," Paper presented at "Heroes and Visionaries:  Exploring the Many Faces of Basketball," Museum of the New South, April 23, 1994.
  • "Billie Jean King's Challenge:  Women's Tennis, Gender, and Sexuality in the 1970s," Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, June 1990.


  • Elon University Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching, spring 2011
  • Alumni profile featured on We are Knox...
  • Elon University Senior Faculty Research Fellowship, 2008-2010.
  • Elon University Research and Development Committee Sabbatical, “History of Lung Transplantation,” 2008-9.
  • Elon University Faculty Writing Residency on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Timberlake Farm, Summer 2007.
  • Elon College Excellence in Teaching Award, spring 2004.
  • Willie D. Halsell Prize, Mississippi Historical Society, best article in 2002 (for “First Try at a Second Chance: The Pioneering Lung Transplant”).
  • Elon College Research and Development Committee Sabbatical, “History of Lung Transplantation,” spring 2000.
  • Elon College Research and Development Committee Financial Assistance Grant, for travel and oral history interview, first lung transplant, summer 2001.
  • Elon College Research and Development Grant; one course release time to develop Oral History Program, fall 1997.
  • Elon College Research and Development Grant; one course release time to finish writing Playing Nice, fall 1995.
  • Elon College Research and Development Grant; travel funds for book research, summer 1994.
  • Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities (national competitive fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Foundation), 1983-5; 1988.
  • Phi Beta Kappa, inducted 1983.