Originally from southern West Virginia, Ron Eller has spent more than 40 years writing and teaching about the Appalachian region. He served for 15 years as the director of the UK Appalachian Center where he coordinated research and service programs on a wide range of Appalachian policy issues including education, health care, economic development, civic leadership and the environment. As a distinguished professor of history at UK, Eller spoke on Appalachian issues at colleges, conferences, and community forums throughout the nation, and he served as a frequent consultant to civic organizations and the national media. A former Rockefeller Foundation scholar, he holds the Ph.D. in American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is known as a scholar of Appalachian history and the study of rural economic development and social change.
He has published more than 60 articles and reports but is most well-known for his award-winning books. Miners, Millhands and Mountaineers: The Industrialization of the Appalachian South was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and won the 1982 Willis Weatherford Award in Appalachian Studies and the 1983 Thomas Wolfe Literary Award. His most recent book, Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945, won a second Willis Weatherford Award in 2008 as well as the 2009 V.O. Key Award from the Southern Political Science Association.
Eller has served as chair of the Governor’s Kentucky Appalachian Task Force, the first chair of the Kentucky Appalachian Commission and as a member of the Sustainable Communities Task Force of President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development. Among other awards, he is the recipient of the Jim Wayne Miller Award for Distinguished Service to Appalachia, two East Kentucky Leadership Foundation Special Awards (1999 and 2009) and the UK William E. Lyons Award for Outstanding Public Service. Also, he has worked on projects in rural education reform with the Ford Foundation, the American Council on Education and the American Association of Community Colleges, and he has served as the John D. Whisman Visiting Scholar for the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington. He retired from teaching in 2013.