Stephen Edward Ambrose’s books are among the most popular historical narratives written for general readers. Ambrose was the second of three sons born to Stephen Hedges Ambrose, a family physician, and Rosepha Trippe Ambrose. He grew up and attended public school in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Two years of high school Latin, according to Ambrose, taught him the importance of verbs and proper grammar.
After graduating from high school, Ambrose enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and planned to join his father’s practice at Whitewater after acquiring his medical degree. At the university, he was a member of the naval ROTC as a freshman and the army ROTC as a sophomore. However, Ambrose switched his major from pre-med to history after taking an American History course from Professor William B. Hesseltine, an effective teacher and scholar. The study of history became Ambrose’s passion.
Ambrose earned his B.A. degree in 1957 and in the same year married Judith Dorlester; she died in 1966. In 1958, Ambrose received his M.A. degree at Louisiana State University, where he studied under the eminent historian T. Harry Williams, who served as another role model for Ambrose. Returning to the University of Wisconsin, Ambrose completed his Ph.D. in 1963, studying under his old professor, Hesseltine.
From 1960 to 1964, Ambrose was an assistant professor of history at Louisiana State University at New Orleans (now the University of New Orleans). He wrote his first book on General Henry Halleck, President Abraham Lincoln’s chief of staff, in 1962. A key event occurred after its publication: President Dwight Eisenhower was impressed with the book and Ambrose’s writing style, so he asked Ambrose to edit his papers. Ambrose eagerly accepted, and this event marked the beginning of decades of research and writing about Eisenhower’s life.
Ambrose took a position as an associate professor of history at The Johns Hopkins University in 1964. In 1969, he became Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History at the United States Naval War College. In 1970, Ambrose served as Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of War and Peace at Kansas State University. In 1971, he accepted the position of professor of history at the University of New Orleans, retiring from there as professor emeritus in 1995....
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