Profile of Cameron Binkley: MA SFSU 2000
I am a public historian whose work has focused upon institutional history research, writing and interpretation. I hold a Master of Arts in American History from San Francisco State University, graduating with honors in 2000. In coming to SF State, my plan was to implement a career transition from a background in Army intelligence and national security affairs. The diversity of SF State was embracing and I dove headlong into researching the role of California women in the Progressive-era effort to save redwoods. Professors Barbara Loomis and Bob Cherny, plus a useful internship with the Save the Redwoods League, helped guide my thesis toward a winning entry in the 1999 SF State Student Essay Competition, which gave me confidence that I was on to something.
Later, I published several articles derived from my completed thesis, including a chapter in California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression (UNP, 2011), a compendium of works written by SF State graduates originally under Bob’s direction. Finally, my thesis helped me secure an appointment as a National Park Service research historian. I eventually authored, co-authored, or edited six books published by that agency on topics ranging from the history of federal archeology to the creation of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Since 2007, I’ve served as the Deputy Command Historian for the Defense Language Institute at the historic Presidio of Monterey. As an Army historian, my duties have included writing about DLI and the Army on the Central Coast, helping to manage an archive, representing the Army to the public, and interpreting historic sites and monuments. The last duty is probably what I am best known for and which I myself enjoy the most doing, which is sharing history with others at the place where its tangible remains are most evident. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the Monterey Bay as backdrop!
Aside from my thesis, what I gained most from my time at SF State was the knowledge that determination and a good game plan can overcome most obstacles. As he was for many, the late Professor Paul Longmore was a touchstone. Paul had to overcome major challenges posed by severe birth defects just to get to his class every day. When I couldn’t get through the department’s dreaded theory course on my first go-around, I took some inspiration from Paul, regrouped, and pared the course with a lighter load later in my studies. I made it through fine on the second try. The point, of course, is that you don’t have to win every battle, focus on what’s important—it’s the campaign that matters. You’d have thought it was the Army that taught me this, but it was History.