Michael J. Birkner is professor of history at Gettysburg College, where he has taught since 1989. From 2001-2016 Birkner served as Benjamin Franklin Chair of Liberal Arts. Birkner's scholarship focuses on aspects of 19th- and 20th-century America. His many books include The Governors of New Jersey: Biographical Essays (2013), McCormick of Rutgers: Scholar, Teacher, Public Historian (2001), an edition of The Papers of Daniel Webster: Correspondence Series (1986), a social history of his home town of Bergenfield New Jersey (a CHOICE outstanding academic book, 1994), and three edited volumes on President James Buchanan. The latest, co-edited work, is entitled The Worlds of James Buchanan and Thaddeus Stevens (2019)
Birkner is recognized for his work on Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 2018 he led a Gilder-Lehrman summer seminar at American University focused on Eisenhower’s presidential leadership. He has published a biography of Eisenhower for middle-school students, an illustrated history of the Eisenhowers, a volume of first hand accounts titled Encounters With Eisenhower (2015), and numerous scholarly and popular articles on aspects of Eisenhower presidency. From 1998-2016 Birkner collaborated with the Eisenhower National Historic site supervisory historian in running a summer institute for secondary school teachers focused on Eisenhower’s presidency. He has been a consultant to the e-Eisenhower project of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, to the current revamping of the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas, and to the multi-part documentary on Eisenhower’s generalship and presidency produced by Starbright television. He has been an on camera presence both for the Eisenhower documentary segment on the presidential election of 1952 and to the film introducing visitors to James Buchanan’s home, Wheatland, in Lancaster, PA.
Birkner served twice on the Pulitzer Prize jury for History, the second time in 2006 as jury chair. From 2014-2016 he served as President of the Pennsylvania Historical Association. In the 1980s Birkner took a hiatus from his academic career for several years, serving as an editorial page editor and chief editorial writer for New Hampshire's Concord Monitor.
On campus, Birkner has served on numerous college committees and chaired the department of history for a decade. He is currently College Marshal. He received his bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Virginia in American history.