As the state grapples with questions about the future of UND and higher education generally, allow me to mark a significant moment in the history of the institution: Dr. Gordon Iseminger, Chester Fritz distinguished professor of history, has retired.
He started teaching at UND in 1962 and easily was the university’s longest-tenured professor when he taught his final class this month. For well more than a half century, he introduced students to renaissance and reformation, war and peace, the triumphs and failures of Disraeli and Napoleon -- the broad scope of European history that shaped so much of our own.
He was known throughout his career as a tough, demanding professor, and in recent years his old-school style and standards earned him scorn and poor teacher ratings from students who wailed about his extensive reading assignments, involved lectures and difficult essay exams. But other students appreciated the discipline and knowledge he brought to the study of history, his passion for examining it and the expectations he had for students.
I was one of the latter. The two years I spent in the late 1970s as a graduate student with Iseminger and the late Dr. P.V. Thorson were challenging but so wonderfully satisfying. They treated me as a fellow scholar, pushed me to read critically, to question and challenge and look for the subtleties and contradictions in historical texts. They made me a better writer, favoring clarity over theatrics. They instilled in me a love of learning that has endured and still has me packing histories and biographies as I head to camp each summer. They defined “university” for me and stoked my faith in the liberal arts as the best foundation for the advancement of civilization.
Well done, professor. And thanks.