Coker UniversityDirectoryShawn Lay, Ph.D.
Shawn Lay, Ph.D.

Shawn Lay, Ph.D.

Professor of History

  • Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
  • M.A., University of Texas at El Paso
  • B.A., University of Texas at El Paso
Dr. Shawn Lay’s professional training has focused on United States social, political, and urban history, particularly that of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His first book, War, Revolution, and the Ku Klux Klan (1985), received the Sonnichsen Prize of Texas Western Press and a Southwest Book Award. The eminent historian Kenneth T. Jackson described the book in the Journal of American History as “gracefully written, sensibly organized, and intelligently argued . . . an example of local history at its best.” In 1992, he edited The Invisible Empire in the West, a collection of essays examining racial and religious intolerance in six western communities. The anthology received favorable reviews in major scholarly journals and in 2004 was republished in an expanded edition by the University of Illinois Press. His third book, Hooded Knights on the Niagara (1995), was described in the American Historical Review as an “excellent book that should be consulted by anyone interested in the Klan, the 1920s, or the social dynamics of modern American right-wing movements.” In addition to his books, Lay has published essays and reviews in a number of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and major scholarly journals, including the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Journal of Southern History, Reviews in American History, Western Historical Quarterly, and Georgia Historical Quarterly.
Lay has taught for thirty-five years at the university and college level. From 1988-1992, he held a full-time position at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he received the Milton Plesur Excellence in Teaching Award. He subsequently taught at the University of Georgia, where his peers presented him with the J. Hatten Howard III Teaching Award and selected him as a Lothar L. Tresp Outstanding Honors Professor. For the last twenty-four years Lay has taught at Coker College. In 2002, 2009, 2014, and 2019 he was selected as Master Professor of the Year. In 2002 he was designated a Governor’s Distinguished Professor by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education for “exceptional teaching performance in an institution of higher learning,” and in 2006 he was awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award by the Association of South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities.