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Walch, Timothy, 1947-



  • Existence: 1947-


Timothy Walch is a graduate of Northwestern University (Ph.D., 1975), a retired senior official with the National Archives and Records Administration, and a historian of American Catholicism.

He was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 6, 1947, the son of George Louis Walch, Jr., an accountant, and Margaret Shields Walch, a school teacher. He received a parochial school education in the suburbs of Detroit and graduated from Austin Catholic Preparatory School for Boys in 1966. He entered the University of Notre Dame in the Fall of 1966 where he studied with Monsignor John Tracy Ellis and Professor Vincent DeSantis, among others. He earned his B.A. degree in history in June of 1970.

In the Fall of 1970 Walch entered the graduate program in the Department of History at Northwestern and continued in the program until he completed his doctorate in August of 1975, with a dissertation entitled Catholic Education in Chicago and Milwaukee, 1840-1890. During his five years at Northwestern, he took courses from, and was counseled by, Robert L. Church (advisor), Richard W. Leopold, George M. Frederickson, Henry L. Binford, James J. Sheehan, Frank Safford, and Robert Wiebe among others. He credits Leopold as having the most significant impact on his career.

Walch was also active in the campus residence life program while at Northwestern. He was director of the McCullough Residence Hall in 1971-1972 and subsequently director at a new residence hall in 1972-73. From 1973-1975 he was the resident assistant master at the Willard Residential College.

In 1974, he became a research associate on the project to compile a 125th anniversary history of Northwestern. [See: Harold F. Williamson, et al. Northwestern University: A History, 1850-1975, Evanston, IL, 1976]. Simultaneous with this work, Walch was mentored by Patrick M. Quinn, Northwestern University Archivist, who provided him with rudimentary training in the acquisition and processing of archival collections. In this regard, Walch processed the Kennecott-Bannister Collection in August of 1975.

Following his year as a research associate, Walch joined the staff of the Society of American Archivists as associate director and project investigator for the SAA Archival Security Program. In addition to this special program, Walch also assisted Ann Morgan Campbell and other members of the SAA staff in the general operation of the SAA from 1975 to 1979. During those years Walch wrote several grant proposals for various SAA programs. Of particular note is the SAA Basic Archival Workshop Program (1977-1979).

Walch married fellow archivist Victoria Irons on June 24, 1978 in Geneva Illinois. Following their marriage, Victoria moved from her position as a senior archival staff member at the Illinois State Archives to the Chicago Historical Society. In the summer of 1979, the Walches accepted positions with the National Archives and Records Service in Washington, D.C. They would stay in Washington for nine years and during that time had two sons: Thomas, born in 1983 and Brian, born in 1985.

Timothy Walch was employed as a program analyst with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission from 1979 to 1981. In this position he evaluated applications for NHPRC grant funding and prepared reports for the consideration of Commission members and staff. With Maygene Daniels, Walch also served as co-director of the Modern Archives Institute, the archival training program sponsored by the National Archives.

Following an agency reorganization and retrenchment, he spent 1981 and 1982 as a budget analyst with the National Archives Trust Fund Board. In the summer of 1982, Walch also was tasked with serving as the interim and then permanent editor of Prologue: The Quarterly of the National Archives. Under his leadership, Prologue was revamped to appeal to a general audience of readers. He continued as editor of Prologue and as Chief of the Publications Development Branch in the Office of Educational Programs until the summer of 1988.

In the Fall of 1988 Walch accepted a position as Assistant Director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa where he worked with noted historian Richard Norton Smith to reinvigorate and expand the Hoover Library and its programs. Walch continued as assistant director until Smith’s departure in the Fall of 1993.

Beginning in the Fall of 1993, and continuing until the Spring of 2011, Walch served as acting director and then director of the Hoover Library. In that capacity, he continued the effort begun by Smith to expand the appeal and influence of the library. He reinvigorated the effort to acquire new archival collections, established new programs for students and academic researchers, guided the installation of new interactive exhibits, raised funds to support a library website, social media enterprise, the publication of a multi-volume biography, and the development of a one hour documentary on Hoover for national broadcast. At the time of his retirement, Walch was the longest serving director in the history of the Hoover Presidential Library.

Throughout his career, Walch wrote, edited, and published a wide range of books, articles, newspaper columns, and book reviews. His first professional publications concerned archival security and culminated in Archives and Manuscripts: Security (1977). While at NARA, he edited three volumes: A Modern Archives Reader (1984), Guardian of Heritage (1985), and Our Family, Our Town (1987).

At the Hoover Library, he compiled a number of volumes related to presidential history. With Richard Norton Smith, he edited Farewell to the Chief: The Role of Former Presidents in American Public Life (1990). With Dwight M. Miller, he compiled Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman: A Documentary History (1992) and Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Documentary History (1998). He also edited Uncommon Americans: The Lives and Legacies of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover (2003) and Herbert Hoover and Dwight D. Eisenhower: A Documentary History (2013).

Simultaneous with his publications related to NARA and the American presidency, Walch produced numerous books and articles on the history of American Catholicism and the history of American Catholic parochial education. These publications are represented in his papers. Of particular note is Parish School: American Catholic Parochial Education from Colonial Times to the Present (1996) which later appeared in paperback (2003) and in a revised and expanded edition (2016).

He also has published more than a hundred opinion columns in three dozen daily newspapers in the United States. Among those papers are: the Detroit Free Press, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, South Bend Tribune, Charleston Gazette and Daily Mail, San Jose Mercury News, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, Spokane Spokesman-Review, Miami News-Herald, Quad City Times, Tampa Tribune, Raleigh News and Observer, Albany Times-Union, Hartford Currant, Indianapolis Star, Winona Daily News, Salt Lake Tribune, Peoria Journal-Star, San Diego Union-Tribune, Athens Banner-Herald, Chattanooga Times Free-Press, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Tulsa World, Wichita Eagle, Wilmington News Journal, Champaign News-Gazette, Buffalo News, Bakersfield Californian, Salem Statesman-Journal, Pocono Record, Modesto Bee, Bryan-College Station Eagle the Riverside Press-Enterprise and Time Magazine.

Walch has been quoted frequently as an authority on the history of the presidency and the vice presidency. His comments have appeared in stories in The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, The Economist, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and, via the McClatchy Newspaper Syndicate and the Associated Press, in numerous daily newspapers across the country.

He has appeared as a commentator on every major cable news channel in the United States including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, and C-SPAN. He served as the C-SPAN studio commentator for the Bush/Cheney Inauguration in 2005, and as a principal guest on the C-SPAN Series “Presidential Libraries: History Uncovered.” He also has appeared on the CBS Evening News, the CBS Morning News, the Public Broadcasting Service, Iowa Public Television, the History Channel (USA), Australian National Television and Irish Independent Television. He is a frequent commentator on Iowa Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, New Hampshire Public Radio, and other affiliates of the National Public Radio network.

Throughout his career, Walch has engaged in a variety of civic and professional organizations. He joined the Organization of American Historians in 1969 and his membership continues. In addition to service to the Catholic Church on both the diocesan and parish levels, Walch filled a term as president of the Catholic Community Foundation of Iowa and continues on the board of directors of The Catholic Messenger, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Davenport.

He also has maintained close ties to organizations in his adopted state of Iowa. He was elected to two terms as a trustee of the State Historical Society of Iowa, served as president of the Iowa Historical Foundation, and was appointed by Iowa’s governors to three terms on the Iowa State Historical Records Advisory Board. He also has served on several advisory committees at the University of Iowa and at St. Ambrose University and continues as a member of the Iowa Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Timothy George Walch Papers

Identifier: 31/6/165

Archivist and historian Timothy Walch received a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1975. His main field of research was American Catholicism. His papers fill eight cartons and document his life, career, and publications.

Dates: 1966-2016