Mason history, engineering professor a Pulitzer Prize finalist

Adjunct professor Larrie Ferreiro was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his book, “Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It.” Photo provided.

Larrie Ferreiro said he was dumbfounded upon learning he was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, one of the most prestigious honors given for written works.

The news came on Monday, April 10, when both the winners and finalists were announced.

“I was in the classroom preparing to teach when I got the news, said Ferreiro, an adjunct professor at George Mason University. “I just had a smile on my face, an ear-to-ear grin. But I had to teach the class with a straight face.”

He let his students know his good news after teaching the class at Georgetown University, where he also is an adjunct.

Ferreiro, who teaches in both the Volgenau School of Engineering and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason, was named a Pulitzer finalist in History for his book, “Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It,” released in November 2016.

“This is an amazing accomplishment. Historians write thousands of books each year, and the Pulitzer selection committee has recognized Larrie’s book as one of the top three. … We’re proud to have Larrie as a member of our faculty,” said Brian Platt, chair of the Department of History and Art History at Mason.

The book explains within the international context how the United States secured its independence from Great Britain.

“America didn’t do it alone. This was a worldwide war,” Ferreiro said.

Toward the end of the American Revolution, Britain was fighting not just the United States, but five separate nations including France and Spain, and it was simply overwhelmed, he added.

“It’s an engaging, painstakingly researched book that offers a basic rethinking of a central event in our nation’s history,” Platt said.

Ferreiro decided to write about the subject after he noticed his children’s textbooks barely mentioned France’s role in aiding the United States. They didn’t mention Spain at all.

“I knew there’s a gap between what happened and what’s taught,” Ferreiro said.

As a systems engineer who has been teaching at Mason since 2011, Ferreiro said his interest in the seemingly unrelated fields of engineering and history are what helped him write the book.

“Being an engineer allows you to pull together many strands of history from those different countries,” he said. “There are a lot of threads to be pulled together to create a coherent narrative.”