Collinsville High School graduate Peter Stehman will receive the 2019 Alumni Achievement Award during the May 18, 2019 CHS commencement ceremony.
Peter Stehman was the youngest of five children raised by Milton and Lucille Stehman in Collinsville. A lifelong city resident, Stehman graduated from Collinsville High School in 1975 and later obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, both from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
After working for six years at the Collinsville Herald, Stehman opted to change paths and began a career in the fire service. Stehman said he made that move as he grew more interested in helping those who were having perhaps the worst day of their lives, instead of just reporting on what had occurred. He moved up through the ranks of the Collinsville Fire Department and was appointed Chief in 2007. He retired after serving a 28-year career.
Stehman now works for the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal and continues to live in Collinsville, with his wife Barbara. They have three children, all CHS graduates. Courtney and Christopher work as Certified Public Accountants in St. Louis. Nathan, who graduated from CHS in 2018, just finished his freshman year at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Author of 2018 book on 1918 incident in Collinsville
After leaving the fire department, Stehman began research on a topic which had always intrigued him, the 1918 lynching of a German immigrant in Collinsville. With a strong interest in history inspired by his parents, Stehman had always been fascinated with the fact that the only lynching of a German immigrant reported during World War I had occurred in Collinsville. The research led Stehman to write Patriotic Murder, A World War I Hate Crime for Uncle Sam. The book was published in the fall of 2018 by Potomac Books of University of Nebraska Press.
Noted historian David M. Kennedy said this of Patriotic Murder:
An undertone of cold fury pulses through Peter Stehman’s meticulously researched account of Robert Prager’s lynching by an Illinois mob in 1918, and the subsequent trial that let his murderers off scot free. The tale he tells is by turns touching, troubling, and timely. It amounts to a parable about the ease with which inflamed patriotism and ignorant prejudice can brew a toxic storm that exposes the frailty of our humanity as well as the fallibility of our judicial system.
Stehman has been an integral part of bringing modern-day attention to Robert Prager. The Prager Memorial Committee has raised enough money to erect a roadside historical marker at the site of the lynching on St. Louis Road. Fundraising efforts continue to provide for placement of another marker at Collinsville City Hall.
Donations can be sent to:
Prager Memorial Committee
c/o Collinsville Historical Museum
406 West Main Street
Collinsville, IL 62234
“I’ve had a great interest is history my whole life, and I think that is something my parents instilled in their children, says Stehman, “My personal interest has been on the Antebellum period forward through the Cold War era. If you truly understand that history, you understand exactly why we face many of the problems we currently have in this nation.”
Stehman remembers time at CHS
He has appreciation for all the teachers he had at CHS, but particularly remembers Ron Adams for the passion he showed in his teaching of Literature and College Prep. “At the time we thought we was just a tough teacher, but he went to great lengths to prepare you for what you would see in college,” says Stehman.
On being chosen the 2019 CHS Alumni Achievement recipient
“I feel very honored to get this award, particularly when you look at past recipients. My mother, Lucille Stehman, received the award, as did John A Renfro, the former School Superintendent I always greatly respected. My good friends John M. Renfro and Patrick Gauen also received the award a bit more recently. I certainly feel humbled when I consider who has received this recognition previously.”