Normally I’m all about going and seeing a place and designing from there… And this was just one of those cases where it didn’t work out that way…. Just even making it to the second round of the competition was entirely overwhelming. It’s the greatest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m enthralled to see where it goes.
Here’s how Weishaar and co-designer Sabin Howard, a veteran sculptor, explained the concept of “The Weight of Sacrifice”:
The allegorical idea that public space and public freedom are hard won through the great sacrifices of countless individuals in the pursuit of liberty provides the original design concept for this project. A memorial and a park built to represent this truth should pay homage to the loss incurred in securing these freedoms. The raised figurative walls visually express a narrative of the sacrificial cost of war, while also supporting a literal manifestation of freedoms enjoyed in this country: the open park space above. The urban design intent is to create a new formal link along Pennsylvania Avenue which ties together the memorial to Tecumseh Sherman on the West and Freedom Plaza on the East. This is achieved by lowering the visual barriers surrounding the existing Pershing Park and reinforcing dominant axes that come from the adjacent context.
About $1 million has been raised for the memorial, expected to cost anywhere from $30-$40 million (all in private funds — here’s how to donate). It’s hoped that construction will conclude in time for the 100th anniversary of the November 11, 1918 armistice that ended fighting on the Western Front.
Our own Prof. Chris Gehrz wrote about “The Weight of Sacrifice,” the four other finalists, and the larger WWI commemorative tradition in a recent essay for Books & Culture.
Thanks to Fletcher Warren ’15 for sharing this report on his experience earlier this month at the annual meeting of the world’s largest professional society for historians.
A couple of weeks ago, I jetted off to sunny Atlanta for the 130th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA). The AHA Annual Meeting is the largest professional meeting of historians in the world and attracts more than 5,000 scholars each year. At the core of the conference are the 400-odd panel discussions, each organized around a unifying theme. These panels require the space of multiple hotel convention centers and are interspersed with various other events — receptions, workshops, poster sessions, and of course, the exhibitor hall, featuring the largest academic publishers in the world, all hawking their wares at often deeply discounted prices. In short, the conference delivers four days of unrelenting historical revelry.
I decided to attend for many of the same reasons that other scholars go: to network and see the latest research in my area (and play the dilatant in other areas), but mostly, because I thought it would be enjoyable. Of course, as a recent B.A. graduate, I was somewhat out of place; a full 80% of the meeting attendees have PhDs or are seeking them, and only 2% have attained a B.A. as their highest credential. Most historians first attend the meeting as late-stage PhD candidates interviewing for their first academic jobs, but starting earlier has benefits, not least being able to actually enjoy the meeting while not worrying about job insecurity.
What tips would you recommend for getting the most out of the Annual Meeting?
First, I would suggest attending the “How to Get the Most Out of the Annual Meeting” session. Run by the executive director and several other staff of the AHA, this session delivered (as promised) many helpful tips for first-time attendees. It was also a good chance to meet other first-timers, many of whom were relatively young — i.e. more approachable than senior scholars.
Second: talk to as many people as you can. The conference and affiliated societies organize a great number of evening receptions and soirées that are excellent places to meet people who share your interests (and eat free food). I found the poster sessions were also good opportunities for meeting other attendees in a relatively informal setting. Actively talking to other historians is not only good networking, it’s enjoyable. For example, I met a graduate student who is writing his dissertation on ghost experiences in 12th century Italy. While my research is in a totally different area, learning about his work was utterly fascinating.
Beyond meeting people, I suggest intentionally attending a mix of sessions, both in format and subject matter. While most of the panels I attended were on late 19th and early 20th century central European history, I also attended a sessions on topics as diverse as the Silk Road, U.S. foreign policy, and the Culture Wars. Seeing scholars discuss their work in a variety of fields can be intellectually engaging and also gives insight into the differing methodologies and concerns of the many types of historians. Besides, there are few venues that can offer the breadth and depth of subject matter that the AHA meeting does. Take advantage of the opportunity to both engage your interests and satisfy curiosity.
Finally, if flying, leave room in your suitcase for books. Many of the publishers in the exhibition hall sell deeply discounted books (some as low at $3 per paperback!). My own haul was somewhat embarrassing.
What was it like to be a recent B.A. graduate at an event dominated by PhD students and professors?
I return to this subject only because it might be a hurdle that discourages some from attending a meeting. The first few hours of the conference were quite subduing. Soon though, I reminded myself that most people are friendly and perfectly happy to talk. In fact, most people I met were delighted to find a younger person at the meeting. And while rare, I did meet several current undergraduates and first year M.A. students. In short, don’t worry about not fitting in — you won’t be alone as a first time attendee, and your initiative in attending the meeting will impress.
What did you take away from the Annual Meeting that was most valuable?
Two things come most directly to mind. First, the panels and sessions I attended were inspiring. I was struck by how varied the field of history is, both in scope and method. One of the panels I attended (on the Silk Road) featured a roundtable of historians and archeologists — a reminder that in much of ancient history, material culture and its attendant skill sets (e.g., numismatology, epigraphy, etc.) are as important as textual analysis. Indeed, the data material artifacts present is often at odds with textual sources, making it a primary concern of historians to reconcile the two. In another panel, a historian of the Cold War examined records from Soviet bloc summer youth camps in an effort to trace the ideological impact of intra-bloc transnational youth movements. Other panels blended aspects of critical theory, sociology, and ethnography. Each of these approaches represents a valid way to do history. The Annual Meeting is an excellent place to become at least minimally acquainted with the breadth and variety of the historical profession.
Second, as someone considering PhD programs in history, the meeting provided an unvarnished look at the profession in (much) of its variety — both good and bad. For example, the conference was filled with the ubiquitous agonization about the state of the academic job market and funding. Perhaps most interesting to me was the degree to which the conference presented a total academic culture. I finally realized just how acclimatized I had become to overhearing buzzword-filled conversations between the PhD-educated only at the end of the four-day weekend when I ventured off-site for food. Hearing the conversation of “normal” young adults for the first time in several days was somewhat jarring. I consider this aspect of the conference to be more amusing and entertaining than anything, and I thought strongly at times of Kate Fox’s tongue-in-cheek ethnography of the English; someone ought to pen a similar volume about historians (or any group of academics) in their natural element. The conference, if nothing else, is a fantastic primer of the socialization process and outcomes of history graduate school.
If the state of jobs is discouraging and the culture at times eye-rolling, the vast majority of my experiences at the meeting were inspiring and energizing. For as many challenges as the profession faces, the meeting showcased hundreds of people who are actively breaking new ground, both in research and in rethinking and repositioning the discipline for the 21st century. The ongoing Tuning Project was evident in a number of areas, including the panel sessions and poster presentations. Digital history was featured heavily as well. From what I saw, historians are clearly grappling with the new challenges and possibilities that medium offers.
What is the cost?
The cost of attending the meeting can vary quite a bit depending on the number of people splitting expenses and whether or not students can ride on a sponsoring faculty member. As a current member of AHA, I was eligible for the $82 student member conference rate. (Student memberships are $40 per year and include the monthly Perspectives magazine and the quarterly Journal of the American Historical Association — a good deal.) Current students would do well to convince a Bethel history professor to attend the conference next year; professors can bring students to the conference for only $10 each in addition to the professor’s registration costs. This makes the actual expense of the meeting negligible.
Airfare and hotel lodgings were the most significant expenses for me, although I was able to split the hotel with a friend I met while studying at Oxford. Next year’s conference is in Denver, a convenient location for Minnesotans as Frontier airlines operates direct service from MSP to Denver for less than $100 if purchased in advance. Alternatively, the 13-hour drive is very reasonable, particularly if a group attends together. I met a group of M.A. students from SUNY-Buffalo who had done exactly that. For those wishing to lower the the cost of lodging, Airbnb may be a good option, although staying on-site at the conference hotel is certainly more enjoyable and convenient.
In all, the conference was a blast. I highly encourage attendance at next year’s conference in Denver, especially for those who are:
Considering a career as a history professor
Preparing to be secondary school social studies teachers
Seeking to become archivists, librarians, or public historians
Enamoured with all types of history and history-related areas
Hoping to purchase an obscene number of brand new and pre-release books at bargain bin prices
In particular, I encourage current social studies education/history majors at Bethel to consider attending. While they were few in number, I found that local high school teachers consistently asked some of the most stimulating questions of panelists, particularly questions of pedagogy. For example, one question prompted a panelist to describe a semester-long learning simulation focused on the lived experience of World War I. It is as important for secondary school history teachers to be familiar with the latest research and approaches to teaching history as it is for professors. After all, secondary school teachers often have the first opportunity to instill basic historical skills and dispel erroneous ways of considering the past. The considerable number of panels on pedagogy that were presented attest to AHA’s focus on making available the resources to teach effective historical reasoning.
I’d be happy to answer further questions in the comments below. Otherwise, see you next January in Denver!
We’re honored to be hosting this year’s Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium, coming to Bethel on Saturday, April 9, 2016. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the call for proposals that went out this morning to history departments around the state.
This is the third installment of the MUHS, with previous symposia having been hosted by our friends at University of Northwestern-St. Paul (2014) and Bethany Lutheran College (2015). A delegation from Martin Luther College joined the founding trio last year in Mankato, and this year we’re hoping to expand the circle further, to other church-related colleges and universities in Minnesota.
Another change this year is that we’ll be accepting proposals for presentations in three categories. As usual, we’ll invite students to report on research projects from capstone courses like our Senior Seminar, upper-division classes, and independent research projects. (Of course, because it’s an early April event, some of these projects will still be in progress, but that’s okay — it’s a chance to share preliminary findings and get some valuable feedback from faculty and peers at other schools.)
But this year we also welcome proposals from students who want to share digital history/digital humanities projects, or their reflections on internships, student-teaching placements, and other experiences connecting historical studies to the workplace.
After concurrent sessions throughout the morning, we’ll take a break for lunch (on your own, at Bethel or off-campus). The symposium will conclude with a faculty panel discussing how historians relate to various publics.
Something like a quarter of Bethel students who graduate with a degree in History or Social Studies Education end up working for secondary or elementary schools. Most teach subjects like US and world history, government, psychology, and economics in middle and high school, while a few have moved into special education or administrative roles. Many wear a second hat as a coach or student government adviser. (And several Bethel-trained social studies teachers have returned to their alma mater, including our director of admissions, the new chair of our Education Department, and one of our own professors.)
Because of the sterling local reputation of our programs, you’ll find our graduates teaching virtually everywhere in the Twin Cities: in public, private, charter, and alternative schools; from Minneapolis and St. Paul to first- and second-ring suburbs. Still others work in cities and towns in other parts of Minnesota, and you’ll even find our alumni in states like Iowa, Illinois, and Montana.
(This map is a work-in-progress. If you see someone missing — we’re no doubt light on alumni from the 1970s and 1980s — or notice information that needs to be updated, please let us know.)
To learn more about the five designs and the larger context of WWI commemoration, read “We Will Remember Them,” an essay by our own Prof. Chris Gehrz that was published last Friday by Books & Culture.
In it, Prof. Gehrz makes several references to the Bethel University travel course (HIS230L) that he and Prof. Sam Mulberry will again be leading in January 2017. For example:
Every other January, my colleague Sam Mulberry and I take a group of students to Europe, where we spend three weeks learning about the history of World War I in a few of the places it affected: Flanders and the Somme, London and Paris, Munich and Oxford. As we journey, we encounter myriad attempts to make meaning of an impossibly complicated story. More often than any other symbol or text, we see three words: “Lest we forget.”
On a centenary poster outside St Paul’s Cathedral: “Lest we forget.” On a simple wooden cross in a Belgian field, placed by English footballers where their ancestors turned No Man’s Land into a makeshift pitch during the famous Christmas Truce of 1914: “Lest we forget.” On tens of thousands of gravestones in Commonwealth cemeteries, where other words failed grieving families given the option of writing an epitaph: “Lest we forget.”
At first glance, the phrase can seem rote, unnecessary. Surely a world war—fought by 65 million people and involving far more—cannot pass from the memory of anyone who experienced it, or heard about its glories and horrors second hand. Nor from the collective memory of a community broken, defined, or otherwise affected by it.
And yet, we forget. Time marches forward, carrying our attention with it. The complicated riches of contemplating the past don’t stack up against the urgent needs of the present and the terrifying anxieties or tantalizing possibilities of the future.
So like the poet Laurence Binyon, watching the first Tommies cross the English Channel in 1914, people for a hundred years have pledged themselves against their nature:
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Students: if you’re interested in going on the January 2017 WWI trip, check back in March, when further details are announced.
This past fall we were fortunate enough to have Prof. Rushika Hage, a specialist in medieval Spanish history, teach HIS312 Medieval Europe every Monday night. As part of that course, she invited students to join her on a trip to Arms & Armor in Northeast Minneapolis, producer of historically accurate replicas of ancient and medieval weaponry and armor.
As a preview of the course she’ll be teaching this spring (HIS311 Roman Civilization), Prof. Hage had her students try on some Roman pieces. Enjoy!
From left to right: Prof. Hage, Michaela Lee ’17, Grace Wiegand ’16, Brandon Sebey ’16, Emily Ruud ’17, Mitch DeHaan ’17
Brandon prepares to invade Gaul
Emily doesn’t need to be able to see in order to lay waste to Carthage
Mitch stands guard as the barbarians approach the gates
One final tribute to Prof. Stacey Hunter Hecht comes from Pastor Katie (Keller) Koch ’02, who shared this reflection on the first verses of Isaiah 11 at Stacey’s memorial service on Thursday morning at Como Park Lutheran Church. A History and Poli Sci double-major at Bethel, Katie finished her M.Div. at Luther Seminary in 2007. She and her husband Paul have worked as Lutheran parish pastors for a number of years; Katie is currently on leave from call to care for their four children.
The wolf shall live with the lamb…a little child shall lead them…and they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain. (Isa 11:6, 9)
Tucked in Stacey’s office at Bethel there was a painting, a print of the famous Peaceable Kingdom, depicting this scripture from Isaiah, chapter 11. And thanks to an art heist in the Political Science hallway yesterday, the painting is right down there if you’d like to look at it. It is a scene and portion of scripture befitting a political scientist.
Early in Stacey’s time at Bethel, I can remember her talking about this painting and Isaiah 11: that our world would always have the wolf and the lamb, the powerful and the weak, the fierce and the gentle, the proud and the humble. Over the years, students of Stacey’s poured over piles of assigned readings on these very topics.
Seeking Christ in her work as well as her life, Stacey would then point to this scripture to say, but look here.
There is a kingdom.
A kingdom where wolf and lamb are together, where the lion and ox are side by side, and where even the baby is safe with the poisonous snake. In political science terms, there is a kingdom where power and powerlessness no longer clash against one another but rather live in a gracious harmony.
It seems that in every area, Stacey lived her own life striving for this when and where she could — believing that somehow deliberate acts of kindness and hospitality could make this all too harsh world a bit more like that Peaceable Kingdom.
Stacey seemed near constantly to be trying to open doors and build bridges for students and friends, for even complete strangers, and across cultures and economics. Even the whole Twin Cities seemed too small for Stacey and she kept taking her show on the road internationally in more recent years.
I’ve heard Steve say “Stace’s never met a party she didn’t love.”
How about, then, a party with a wolf and a lamb: perfect – it’ll be interesting! And lion and ox: even better. So why not combine Penn State and the U of M, with mainline presbyterians and neighborhood Lutherans, and don’t forget the evangelicals from Bethel; then mixing in foreign exchange students from Japan and China, along with just about the entire Twin Cities Chinese dance and language communities. Finally, let’s throw in a good measure of public television and political commentary, just to make things fun.
Now that sounds like Stacey. She could take people from vastly different parts of society and throw them together around a common cause and somehow make this all seem so very normal. And so beautiful.
Stacey just couldn’t stop herself from welcoming people in and making a difference in the world around her. Now, at times, you could say Stacey was meddling or sometimes a tad aggressive about her opinions, but it seemed she wanted to reach right out and grab this kingdom promised by her Lord and say, ok, God now deliver on this promise.
Thy kingdom come, Lord, on earth as it is in heaven.
Of course, I don’t need to tell you this. You’re here today, so you’ve got your own memories of Stacey and somewhere along the way, you too were caught up into Stacey’s determination and passion.
But just as the prophet Isaiah spoke, so too knew Stacey that this kingdom is simply a perishable dream without the very certain hope in the one who was already reconciling one to another and each of us to God. Stacey’s connecting and teaching and friendship was motivated by the truths she knew from scripture.
She knew too that despite her best efforts, this world would alway harbor brokenness. And yes, our hearts hurt today with the brokenness of death.
So hope comes then in the one who truly reigns in this Kingdom of God. For in Isaiah we hear that it is a little child who shall lead this grand kingdom; this righteous branch of Jesse, this messiah, comes with such hope and promise that though this seems impossible on Earth, there is a kingdom of God where such perfection is finally known.
This day, we commend Stacey to the peaceable kingdom of resurrection, prepared for her by Christ’s very hand.
Last Wednesday, a week after political science professor Stacey Hunter Hecht lost her battle with cancer, the Bethel community gathered in the Seminary Chapel to celebrate her life. On behalf of our fellow AC 2nd-ers in the Poli Sci department, we’re honored to publish the brief eulogies shared at that service by four of Stacey’s colleagues.
Chris Gehrz, Professor of History
As much as anyone I know, Stacey Hecht enjoyed a good doomsday scenario. For example, more than a few times, she tried to get me to think through our fall-back plan in case Bethel, well, went under. God forbid, but…
If things at our place of employment went south, Stacey intended to buy a bed and breakfast — and to hire me as the chef. The campus itself, she decided, would become a new retirement property for Presbyterian Homes: Valentine Shores.
It’s not the best plan that her fertile imagination conjured… but it always made me smile. And such moments were typical of our friendship. As our hall’s resident Presby-Lutheran, I think Stacey felt some kind of moral imperative to check the naive excesses of my Pietist optimism — but also to sweeten every reality check with humor.
But while Stacey liked to think of herself as perpetually seeing the glass half empty, she actually lived life in profound hope. Not hope as some kind of world-denying, wait-for-heaven sedative, but hope as a stubborn determination to leave Creation a bit less fallen than she found it. “I like Political Science,” she wrote in a 2009 note on Facebook, “because it suggests to me that it might be possible to fix some of the messes of this world.” As a bumper sticker on her office put it, she believed in “Just politics, not just politics.”
Most of all, Stacey lived in the hope that what we do as teachers, mentors, and advisors matters — that the impact of our lives on those of our students is not negligible. That even on our worst days, faced with forty blank stares in an 8am American Politics class, God gives us the potential to help students see him, themselves, and others anew, to hear a calling, to be changed and to change the world…
As one of those students, Chris LaTondresse, put it last week: “[Stacey’s] legacy lives on, embodied in thousands of former students who, like me, are better citizens and better Christians as a result of her influence in our lives.”
So while we’ve reached what for many of us is a doomsday scenario, and there is no fall-back plan, there is laughter. There is legacy. And there is hope.
It is an incredible privilege to be a part of this service today.
We all have stories to tell about our experiences with, and what we’ve learned from, Stacey. As the university archivist I urge you to take the time to write these memories down. If you’d rather record your memories through audio, I can arrange for that too. Send your memories to me and I will collect them for the archive. In so doing, our permanent record of Stacey’s years at Bethel will reflect a personal and vibrant account of her work and legacy.
Stacey arrived at Bethel in 1997, and for most of those years, our offices were next door to each other. Stacey was not a quiet talker, so without even really trying, I learned a lot from her. Without question she is one of the most energetic and engaged colleagues I’ve ever known. Her laugh is indescribable.
But what I want to share with you today is something I experienced with Stacey over this past year, away from Bethel and our offices. For me it is profound, and I am forever changed by it.
Simply put, Stacey invited me in, to bear witness to her suffering.
Intellectually I know of the significance of bearing witness to the experiences of others. I do this every day with my students as we read, discuss, analyze, and are challenged by historical primary sources. We spend time with the voices of women and men from across the centuries, lives that speak to us from the past, and testify to pain and struggle and hope.
Perhaps my all time favorite historical monograph is about an 18th century midwife from Maine named Martha Ballard. She left a diary and it survived the centuries. There are so many reasons I love this book, but I realize now that what I appreciate most about Martha’s story is how her entire documented life testifies to the quiet way she bore witness to the suffering of her family and neighbors. The suffering that the pain of childbirth, epidemics, death, rape, chronic disease, and even murder, visited upon her family and neighbors, became Martha’s. They relied upon her not only for her medical skill, but also for her willingness to enter into the space of their suffering, and bear witness to something they could not change.
Stacey invited me in, to her sacred space of suffering. She wrestled intensely with God over why he would allow her to be taken from her family, her work, and her community. Many of us have struggled and continue to struggle with this question. I do not know the answer. What I do know is, having believed, Stacey was marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is the greatest witness, testifying with our spirit that we are God’s children. Stacey was God’s child. She shared in his sufferings, and will now share in the incomparable glory promised to God’s children. (Ephesians 1:13; Romans 8:16-18)
Fred Van Geest, Professor of Political Science
I met Stacey for the first time about nine years ago, when I interviewed at Bethel. Immediately, I found her to be welcoming, kind, generous, and friendly. It didn’t take long for me to see that she was highly devoted to Bethel, and especially the Political Science program. For almost two decades, she was a pillar of the department, providing a crucial link between faculty who were about to retire and new ones who would soon join her.
Stacey was one of the main reasons I came here. I was impressed by her faith, her professionalism and her (many) obvious abilities. At that time already I could also see her incredibly high degree of collegiality. I knew this was someone I wanted to work with.
But, the word collegial doesn’t really go nearly far enough to describe Stacey. She took it to another level. For example, she was a truly a humble, hard-working,servant to us all . She was protective of our department and of every member in it. She was always standing up for us, working tirelessly on behalf. One of my strongest memories early on, was when significant tasks or challenges would come up, she would something like “don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it”. And she did. She did that a lot, probably much more than I knew at the time. As I’ve said to people in the last week, she consistently made our jobs so much easier. We were all grateful for her constant willingness to serve us so well in this role.
Stacey was also loyal. Never once in these last nine years did I doubt that she was “on my side”. She made this clear in many ways. For instance, she expressed utter and full confidence in me, even when I lacked it, or doubted myself. I can speak for my colleagues in the department, when I say Stacey made us feel like she was always “on our side.” I think many people probably felt this way. And, you wanted Stacey on your side. I can’t imagine a more effective advocate.
Stacey was always encouraging and supportive. I could give you many examples, but I’ll only share one — how she supported me in my research and writing. In my very first few weeks here, she proudly sent out a message informing the entire faculty about an article I had recently published. I’m certain that her main purpose in doing so, was just to encourage me. When it came time for my sabbatical, she was an enthusiastic supporter, bringing me books and offering to put me in touch with people she knew. She kept cheering me on in my research, and it kept me going at times when I got discouraged. In fact, I don’t think I’d be working on the book I’m writing now, if it weren’t for Stacey’s strong encouragement and support.
Stacey loved teaching students at Bethel, and she was good at it. I sat in on one of her classes a couple years ago to observe. I later told Stacey it was great in so many different ways and that it reminded me of how important the teaching profession was, and how good it could be, if done well. Stacey pushed for excellence inside, and outside of the classroom. As one of her students said last week, she always challenged them to give 110%.
Stacey was an extraordinary mentor to students. She was exceedingly generous with the time she spent advising them. She cared deeply about their well-being, who they were as human beings and how they could best serve in God’s kingdom. Stacey was especially compassionate and caring with struggling students. She would always go the extra mile for them.
I know I will miss Stacey for a long time to come. She was a true friend and sister in Christ. But, I’m comforted and encouraged by couple of things. First, and most importantly she was a woman of great faith. As I said in one my classes last Friday, Stacey had the faith described in Hebrews 11, a “…confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (v 1). She modelled this faith for her family, her friends and colleagues and her students.
I’m also encouraged by the legacy she leaves. She touched the lives of many students, and others, who are now busy leading productive and fruitful lives. She’s also left an important legacy by showing us all how to be servants.
Stacey serves as an inspiration for all. Bethel University, and the world, are better places because she was with us.
John Lawyer, Professor Emeritus of Political Science
Let us celebrate together the gift God has given us in our beloved friend and colleague, Stacey Hunter Hecht.
Putting words to the thoughts and feelings that follow that call is not easy. We start with memories, incidents, and images. I think especially of Stacey sitting at the desk in her office, the door usually ajar, and how she would turn to welcome the visitor with her whole presence as well as with her words. You always knew that she was there for you, that she cared, that she would willingly put her thoughts and insights at your disposal no matter what the issue – academic, administrative, or simply a personal drop-in, and that they would always be compassionate and helpful, making sense to both heart and head.
There are so many specific memories, some of which we may have already shared with others, and some that quietly dwell in our hearts. But the more I think of Stacey the less I recall this or that incident. What comes to mind mostly is the steady sense of her presence, the quick and somewhat puckish sense of humor, her simply being there and being available. It is the gift of herself to the entire community.
And not, of course, to Bethel alone, but beyond these walls to her family and friends, her church, her neighbors, the Twin Cities’ Chinese community, the Almanac TV audience, and so many others.
I said a minute ago it is the gift of herself, not was – because anyone who has known her carries some mark of that presence with them – with us – still. Several centuries back St. Francis de Sales wrote, “Be what you are, and be that well.” That was Stacey, fully herself; and through knowing her each of us is able to be more fully who we are, more fully human, more fully the person we are called to be in God’s good plan.
And that is indeed something worth celebrating.
May God’s peace abide with us all. Amen.
See also the tribute posted earlier this morning from G.W. Carlson, Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science.
This past Wednesday and Thursday, the family and friends of Prof. Stacey Hunter Hecht said farewell at two memorial services, first at Bethel and then at Stacey’s church. Today and then into next week, we’re going to share some tributes to Stacey from some of the people of the Political Science and History Departments. First up, G.W. Carlson reflects on Stacey’s many accomplishments as a teacher and department chair, particularly emphasizing her commitment to promoting civil discourse.
During the 2004 presidential elections Stacey was deeply troubled by the experience of a Bethel University student. A young woman was passing by the Bush campaign table and said, “Wrong party.” The students behind the table stated, “Wrong school.” Stacey and other students expressed the need to respond. They supported the effort to create a student organization that would “bridge the gap between people of faith who find themselves disagreeing politically, to equip Jesus followers with information to help them make biblically informed decisions about their voting choices and to provide a safe place for Bethel students to register to vote who do not strongly identify with one political party or another.” Stacey liked two bumper stickers “God is not a Republican or a Democrat” and “Just Politics.”
In 2006 both Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine and James Dobson from Focus on the Family came to St. Paul to spread their political and religious ideas. Pam Miller, the Star Tribune writer, called me and asked about these two events. I told her that Bethel political science students were coordinating both of these events and they were friends. Students were encouraged to hear both of the speakers. Miller didn’t believe this because she thought that Bethel promoted a monolithic conservative viewpoint. I put her in contact with both the leaders of the Young Republicans and Young Democrats. What she found out was that Stacey’s understanding of the department’s task on civil discourse seems to have been working.
Stacey was significantly concerned about the polarizing nature of American politics and the need to promote a commitment to civil discourse. At an alumni event in 2012 the political science department featured a dialogue about the fall presidential elections. Stacey organized the event which featured two students supporting different presidential candidates, a presentation on evangelical voting patterns, and an understanding of the diverse evangelical political options. Above all, Stacey wanted to suggest that the purpose of the Political Science department was to allow students to have a mature understanding of their political viewpoints, value civil dialogue with those who disagree and seek the common good.
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Stacey began her teaching career at Bethel in 1997. Early she taught in the adult program while she was working on her dissertation at the University of Minnesota, which she completed in 2000. Bill Johnson, John Lawyer, and I came to the conclusion that we wanted Stacey to be a full-time member of the Political Science faculty. Bill Johnson was willing to rearrange some of his teaching load to facilitate this appointment. She served Bethel University in a number of assignments as a political science professor from 1997-2015.
On January 16, 2015 I received a request from arts and humanities dean Barrett Fisher which saddened me greatly. Stacey had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would be on medical leave in the spring. He asked if I would be willing to teach her two American Government classes at 8am and 9am. These were hours of the day in which I always wondered whether real learning could take place. And I hadn’t taught this course since 1972 — when the Nixon/McGovern election was happening.
I always believed that my friend Stacey would make it through the awful medical options and be a cancer survivor who would once again do what she did best – to engage the academic minds of students and play an effective role in their spiritual and intellectual development. This was not to happen. I learned last Wednesday afternoon, December 9, that she had died at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. With tears and great grief I was able to interact with several of Stacey’s students and faculty friends, which allowed me to get through the afternoon.
Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences with Stacey and affirm her wonderfulness as a colleague by reading through the emails we had exchanged over the past fifteen years. I am glad that I had not deleted out these emails since 2000. While browsing through the emails I recognized five major characteristics of a colleague I will miss.
First, she was the coordinator of Constitution Day events at Bethel.
Constitution Day celebrations on campus were required by a law passed under the influence of Senator Robert Byrd, who attached the requirement to a spending bill in 2004. Colleges were to establish events on September 17 to commemorate the day in 1787 when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document. (Byrd was known for always carrying a Constitution in his pocket.)
The Political Science department is responsible for carrying out this assignment, and Stacey was the person who planned most of these events. They were often quite educational and enjoyable experiences. I remember the showing of the film Gideon’s Trumpet. Stacey asked the coordinator of the Dakota County public defender’s office to join the event. A tornado warning and a requirement that all faculty and students seek shelter for almost 45 minutes interrupted the event.
Two other events were part of my memory. One was a reading of the Constitution in the AC Lounge. I wanted to make sure that I could read the First Amendment, the Baptist contribution to the Constitution. A second was the discussion of failed constitutional amendments such as the repeal of the 18th amendment (Prohibition) and the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment. Frequently, the department passed out small copies of the Constitution to each student.
Second, she was a political science scholar who took her academic commitments seriously.
Her earliest accomplishment was an article, “Religion and the Bill of Rights,” in Corwin Smidt’s In God We Trust (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2001). While she was suffering this fall we learned that Stacey and David Schultz (political science professor at Hamline University) were editors of Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2015).
Stacey also participated on numerous academic panels and wrote several significant book analyses. Stacey engaged a CCCU National Workshop in June 2008 on the topic “Integrating Our Faith, Our Work, and Our Personal Life.” One of my most memorable experiences was when Stacey chaired a panel in which I participated on the topic “Evangelical Political Ideologies: Can We Agree to Disagree?” for a Community Life Gathering at Bethel Seminary in October 2014.
Third, Stacey was an extremely effective teacher.
Several times I had the joy of writing letters of support for Stacey for promotion or tenure renewal. Her teaching effectiveness was affirmed by the student ratings of her classes. Student evaluations reflected a strong appreciation of Stacey’s knowledge of the material and the methods she used in the classroom. Her students learned that many political issues had diverse perspectives and quality judgments needed to be advanced.
One of her greatest assets was the ability to engage students who needed an adult mentor outside the classroom. She took the time to respond to students whose journeys have not been easy and provided each with meaningful guidance and support. I have already received several phone calls and emails from students who wanted to share their stories with me.
Several times during her tenure Stacey would comment on the number of students who left Bethel and were successful in the world of electoral politics. Sometimes we advanced the idea that the role of Bethel’s Political Science department is to train the next generation of Republican leaders. Stacey also rejoiced at the number of majors who are doing well in other professions such as public service, Christian ministry, non-profit institutions, law and teaching.
One of the students she enjoyed was Chris LaTondresse who worked with Jim Wallis at Sojourners after he graduated from Bethel. Chris was one of the students who was impacted by the 2004 “wrong school” experience and wrote an essay about it in Sojourners magazine. In a recent post Chris noted that Stacey was one of his favorite professors at Bethel because she helped introduce a
young, evangelical, conservative, college freshman to a world of ideas and perspectives that were missing from my worldview: the connections between faith and the common good, the biblical call to social justice, a vision for faithful citizenship centered around enlisting all segments of society (business, government, civil society, religion, education, healthcare) on behalf of the most vulnerable.
He added that his “earliest questions around vocational discernment were forged over coffee conversations in her office while plotting out classes for the next semester and dreaming of engaging the world beyond Bethel. She will be dearly missed by all, but her legacy lives on, embodied in thousands of former students who, like me, are better citizens and better Christians as a result of her influence in our lives.”
Recently, this positive engagement was seen in Stacey’s relationship with Zoe Vermeer, Bethel’s current student body president. Stacey recommended that I use Zoe as a Teacher’s Assistant when I took over her American Politics classes. She wrote: “Zoe Vermeer is my TA extraordinaire, and she can do almost anything, including possibly walk on water. She took the course last year as a first year student, and TA’ed for it in the Fall. Zoe also went to China with me last January, and has been my student in two other classes. She is bright, incredibly conscientious, and on top of it all, spiritually growing and mature… Honestly, she is just amazing and should be able to let you know exactly how I’ve run things, if you want/need to know.” Her advice was accurate.
Fourth, Stacey set high standards for members of the department.
She desired faculty in the Political Science department to have a strong Christian commitment. They should also be concerned about academic excellence, collegiality, and teaching effectiveness. This was expressed in many ways but was most found in the journey the department took, under her leadership, to find replacements for long-time faculty members as they retired: Bill Johnson, John Lawyer, and myself. Now that the change over has taken place, it is interesting to celebrate the birth of new children and see young children playing in the hallways. This hadn’t happened for a long time.
Stacey was determined to hire only faculty that would meet her criteria. It was a long and not easy process. After one set of interviews she wrote that the saga to replace John Lawyer continued: “Tonight I believe I shall order a very large pizza or some such for myself and hopefully the combination of fat and carbohydrates will lull me into some kind of a nice stupor…which I sorely need after this afternoon’s interviews…. Continue to pray that the right candidate would come forth.”
In an email to Bill Johnson, Stacey celebrated the success in finding the right International Relations candidate. She wrote “We have finally hired an IR person!!! Chris Moore, who just defended at Ohio State will be joining us in the fall. His work is on insurgencies, and he also had expertise in Political Psychology, so he should round things out nicely here. He’s a lively and engaging teacher, so we’re anxious to have him fully ‘in harness.’”
Similar issues were addressed earlier in Fred Van Geest’s hiring. When he told Stacey that he expected to move to Minnesota and start in the fall, she could only say one word: “Hallelujah!” Stacey was also really pleased when, most recently, Andrew Bramsen brought his expertise in comparative government and African politics to the department.
Now the crisis for the department will be to address one core question: How do we replace Stacey? Can we find someone who meets the high standards that she had for Bethel’s Political Science department?
Fifth, Stacey was effectively engaged in interacting with the broader public on significant political science issues. In doing so she advocated for and modeled a Christian commitment to civil discourse.
One of the major contributions Stacey made for the larger political discussion was her frequent participation on Almanac. This is a lively news discussion show on public television. Almost every Friday evening a panel was pulled together which included local scholars and politicians to discuss some of the major issues of the day. Humorously, when Stacey notified her father about her first appearance on Almanac and encouraged him to watch it, he responded by commenting on her wonderful hairstyle. Many of us would spend Friday nights listening to Stacey’s humorous evaluation of current political issues. She was a valued participant.
Yesterday afternoon we lost a member of the Almanac family. Stacey Hunter Hecht passed away after nearly a yearlong battle with cancer. She headed up the political science department at Bethel University and was a regular member of our political science panel. We will miss her intelligent and witty analysis on the couch, both in the studio and at the State Fair.
Several Sundays ago Cathy and I had the privilege to visit with Stacey. We sat together for about an hour talking about her health, issues at Bethel, larger political campaign questions (i.e. how do you understand Trump?), and the impact of her health issues on the family. She had an oxygen tube and seemed to tire after about an hour. However, she was alert and engaging. She was always politically informed and enjoyed a “civil dialogue” on important issues. I will miss her greatly.
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Stacey’s advice and counsel on the need for Christian political science professors at Bethel to be advocates for civil discourse remained a priority throughout her entire tenure. For a 2012 article in Bethel Magazine. Kelsey Lundberg interviewed Stacey, who suggested that the desire to build a sense of community in the United States necessitated a commitment to civil discourse. She referenced the relationship between Republican president Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, a Democrat. They spent time together off the congressional floor. Stacey suggested that “when the business of the day was over these two Irishmen would sit around together and tell stories. So there was a common community of life in Washington, D.C., that people were part of, a whole lot more than they are now.”
Stacey was concerned that polarization and uncivil discourse had trickled down from national venues to the local level – into our neighborhoods, workplaces, and social circles. She argued that “we are no longer sitting down and watching the same six o’clock news at night. We’re not all reading the same newspapers and then having a conversation about it. Instead we have all these hyper-partisan outlets, and the volume is amped up to create this political infotainment.”
My favorite memory of working with Stacey was a joint paper we wrote for a religion and politics conference at Calvin College in May 2002. Both of us were intrigued by the following question: Why do Evangelical Christians worship together on Sunday and vote differently on Tuesday? Entitled “Evangelical Political Ideologies: Can We Agree to Disagree?”, the paper analyzed the five diverse evangelical traditions: Fundamentalist Far Right, Evangelical New Right, Traditional Evangelical Conservative, Evangelical Liberalism and Evangelical Counter-Culture.
Stacey concluded her section of the essay by suggesting that
American religious politics works best when it is derived not out of hatred for America but out of a love for our community. A Christian concept of hope and justice remain prime motivators to a continuation of the dialogue both within the church and between the church and the larger community. Can we agree to disagree? The answer is yes. It is an essential component of American democratic politics and an extension of a Biblical commitment to civility and community. The evangelical community can best advance their agendas through a free church in a free democratic society.
(We completed our journey to Calvin by doing what all good political scientists would do: find time to visit the Gerald Ford Presidential Library. We both commented on the overwhelming tragedy of the Watergate experience and its emphasis in the museum displays.)
In honor of Stacey’s life and witness, let us commit ourselves to a life that values the Christian faith, attempts to cultivate a sense of community, and always values a civil discourse that seeks to find common ground.
– G.W. Carlson
See also the four eulogies shared at Stacey’s Bethel memorial service by colleagues Chris Gehrz, Diana Magnuson, Fred Van Geest, and John Lawyer.
In profound sadness and continuing disbelief, we must report that our friend and colleague Stacey Hunter Hecht, associate professor of political science, passed away on Wednesday afternoon. Only 47 years old, Stacey had been on medical leave this year while she battled breast cancer.
A memorial service for faculty, staff, alumni, students, and other members of the Bethel community will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 16th at 9:30am in the Seminary Chapel. Our own Diana Magnuson and Chris Gehrz will be among those participating in a service meant to celebrate Stacey’s life and enduring influence.
If you would like to join Stacey’s family and broader circle of friends in remembering her, visitation will be that same day from 4-8pm at Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell Funeral Home in Shoreview (Hwy 96 and Mackubin). Then on Thursday the 17th, Stacey’s church, Como Park Lutheran (1376 W. Hoyt Ave. in St. Paul), will host a memorial service at 11am, with a gathering time the hour before.
Please join us in praying for Stacey’s family — especially her daughter, Rosie, and husband, Steve — and for her colleagues and students in the Political Science department. Peace be to her memory.