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Dr. Jason Roberts appears on C-SPAN to out Soviet spies
May 19, 2014, 09:22

When Dr. Jason Roberts attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., he gained not only a doctorate, but also a wife. Roberts life has been all about pleasant surprisesand espionage.

On April 27, Roberts appeared on C-SPAN 3, from a conference he spoke at earlier last month about Cold War-era spies. Roberts gave a presentation on Morton Sobell, an atypical secret agentno James Bondconvicted of espionage, espousing his innocence until 2008, when he finally admitted to providing classified documents to the USSR. Sobell was convicted in the same trial as Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the couple executed for providing classified atomic information to the Soviets.

Its easier to [give your presentation] at the beginning of a conference, because then youre done, Roberts says. It was surreal doing it. I havent watched my presentation yet. My mother and Enfys McMurry watched it at Enfys house [in Corydon].

Among other speakers on the panel were John Fox, the FBIs historian, and David Chambers, the grandson of former Time magazine editor and Soviet spy Whitaker Chambers, who later renounced Communism and testified in the perjury and espionage trial of Alger Hiss.

Roberts is a history and government professor at Quincy College in Quincy, Mass. just outside of Boston. He graduated from Seymour Community High School in 1995, and was once an usher for the Sewal United Methodist Church. He graduated from Indian Hills Community College in Centerville in 1997, from Northwest Missouri State University with a BA in history in 1999, and again from Maryville, Mo. for his masters in 2001. From there, he arrived at George Washington University in 2001, and received his Ph.D. in 2007.
He was a teaching adjunct in the D.C. area for around a year after earning his doctorate.

Two days after my graduation, I was in the classroom teaching for the first time. I was so nervous. The classroom was hot. They didnt have audio-visual equipment in the class. I had to lug an LCD projector into the room. [The course] was the United States since 1945. We had a great discussion about Truman and the bomb, and whether he was justified in using it. That was a crazy experience, but it turned out well in the end. It ended up being a great class.

In 2010, Roberts was applying for jobs, and got the call for an interview from Quincy. He felt he hit it off with the committee, but did not want to get his hopes up.

A month later, they offered me the job.

Roberts and his wife, Emilie, moved from Bethesda, Md. in August of 2010, when he started his job.

Roberts wife was born in Vietnam, where Emilies father was a tour guide. A host family, an Air Force couple, brought her to the United States in 1997. Roberts and Emilie met at George Washington when Roberts was in grad school. They will have been married 10 years in August.

Emily is an accountant, receiving her masters from George Washington, but she loves history, politics and current events, as well.

Roberts first ran into Emily at the Gelman Library on campus.

It was really weird, Roberts says. Id be at the library and run into her. Id be walking on campus and run into her. Id be waiting for the Metro at Foggy Bottom, and shed be on the other side of the track, and Id notice her.

They got together for coffee. Coffee became lunch. Lunch became a movie. Three months later, they were married.

Roberts first journey to the United State capitol came when he interned for Senator Charles Grassley in the summer of 1997. He stayed at one of the dorms at George Washington and loved the experience. It was a bit of a culture shock, however, coming from rural Iowa to a large metropolitan area on the East Coast. He recalls a neighbor baiting him by saying, Iowaisnt that where all those KKK people are?

In 2001, he applied to 10 different grad schools, including GW, though he did not expect to get in. The University of Missouri-Columbia accepted him, and that was his familys favorite choice, because he would be close to home. But when he got the call from GW, he could not turn down the opportunity. He was living with a friend in Maryville, Mo., and his father called and said he had received the acceptance letter.

I wanted to go to GW, Roberts says. Thats the perfect place to study political history. This is where the action is, right there in the nations capitol. I could go from my classes at GW to the Library of Congress and the National Archives. Id have been kicking myself for the rest of my life if I didnt go.

The only downside for the first two years was not having funding, before he received a teaching assistantship. Roberts indicates he is still paying for college.

Ive always had a love for history, Roberts says. Growing up, my aunt, Donna Niday, would read me history stories, and whenever she traveled somewhere, she would bring [something] back.

Dr. Donna Niday is an English professor at Iowa State University, and a member of Jennifer Pruiett-Selbys masters thesis committee at ISU.

Growing up, [my aunt] was one of my role models, someone I sought to emulate, Ronjoyed gardening, baking, shopping, and going to craft shows.

Memorial services were held May 31 at the Greenlee-Middleton Funeral Chapel in Lineville with Pastor Max Carmichael officiating.

Inurnment will be in the Evergreen Cemetery in Lineville.

The family has requested memorial contributions in lieu of flowers to the Taylor House Hospice at 3401 Douglas Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50317-4352.

Greenlee-Middleton Funeral Chapel in Lineville was in charge of arrangement.

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