M.A., Trinity College
Ph.D., University of Connecticut
Chris Doyle sometimes likes to test his limits. He loves history: reading it, teaching it, and writing it. He enjoys talking about ideas: with students, colleagues, parents, his family, or even with strangers at a local coffee shop or museum. He usually can’t wait to run with the cross-country team on a fall afternoon, try to keep up with his wrestlers on the mat in the winter, or walk with his wife, Bev, and dogs all over the Avon campus on a Sunday afternoon.
Chris has initiated new classes in Global Studies, “Government and Crisis,” and a team-taught offering, with Dan Hodgson from the English Department, on inequality and protest in the Gilded Age and the twenty-first century. This course uses works of literature and history to explore the spectacular wealth and poverty of both eras and how they fueled social unrest.
Since coming to Avon in 2017, Chris has been deeply involved in organizing the Evans History Initiative. In 2019, with the help of the administration, staff, colleagues, and students, the Evans Initiative became a full-blown academic conference exploring slavery and its legacies on the 400th anniversary of the beginnings of American slavery at Jamestown.
Chris has a doctorate in history from the University of Connecticut, an M.A. in history from Trinity College, and a B.A. in history from Western Connecticut State University. His commentary writings have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, and Education Week. His teaching has been featured in the New York Times.
Chris began teaching in 1985 following a brief stint in sales just after college. He grew up immersing himself in books: biographies, novels, stories about off-beat events in the past. He decided to give teaching a shot because he wanted to do something that would combine his love of history with the possibility of doing some larger good. Of his early days in the classroom, Chris says: “It was so much harder to teach well than I thought it would be. Students didn’t naturally share my enthusiasm for the subject or grasp what I wanted to get across to them. I had to draw them in. To do that, I needed good stories. That’s why I kept studying—to find more stories.”
As a veteran teacher, Chris has become increasingly concerned about showing students how historians think and work.
“Memorizing a bunch of facts isn’t history. History is an effort to explain the human condition,” Chris believes. “Historians must be true to facts, but they have to select and prioritize evidence. They also have an obligation not to ignore evidence that complicates their take on the past. And they have to try hard not to project their own biases and cultural baggage into their analyses, not to think anachronistically.”
These are difficult concepts to teach, but Chris is convinced that they make for more thoughtful people and better citizens.
- Students who know “Doc Doyle” as their history teacher often express surprise the first time they see him riding his motorcycle.