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Ringenberg and his fifty years with Taylor

Professor Ringenberg shares about his life since 1968

William Ringenberg | Echo

William Carey Ringenberg began in 1968 as assistant professor of history. In 1972 he became associate professor of history, and since 1977, he has been one of our beloved professors of history. Since his time as a professor at Taylor, Ringenberg has experienced fifty years of growth, change and students.

He is now professor emeritus and former chair of history at Taylor University, his undergraduate alma mater, where he also has been Associate Academic Dean, director of the Honors Program and a member of the committee coordinating the activities of the Campus Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends. He completed his early graduate work at Indiana University before earning the Ph.D. at Michigan State University in 1970.

William Ringenberg reminisces about his past fifty years with Taylor.

William Ringenberg reminisces about his past fifty years with Taylor.

In the 1970s he served with George Marsden (then of Calvin College) as founding board members of the “Christian Scholars Review,” and then in the 1980s he served a two-year term as president of the Conference on Faith and History. Also in the 1980s, he served as a part-time United Methodist minister.

As with many scholars, Ringenberg’s research direction gained definition through his choice of a dissertation topic. After nearly writing on the Mormon experience in Kirtland, Ohio in the 1830s, he instead focused on the “The Protestant College on the Michigan Frontier.”

Subsequently, he wrote two Taylor histories: “Taylor University: The First 125 Years” (1973) and “Taylor University: The First 150 Years” (1996), the more broadly-based “The Christian College: A History of Protestant Higher Education in America” (1984 and 2006), and then came “The Christian College and the Meaning of Academic Freedom: Truth Seeking in Community” (2016). Finally, in conjunction with his son, Matthew, and Taylor classmate, Joseph Brian, he is writing a biographical study of one of Taylor’s most influential students, “The Education of Alice Hamilton: From Fort Wayne to Harvard” (2019).

One of the advantages of teaching in a small liberal arts college is that it can more easily provide the opportunity to teach interdisciplinary courses. For years Ringenberg taught an honors section of the freshman general education course, Foundation of Christian Thought, and as an outgrowth of that course he has written “Letters to Young Scholars: An Introduction to Christian Thought” (2003, 2018).

In addition to Christian higher education, his research articles have tended to focus on biographies of religious figures, the religious thought and practice of American presidents (Garfield the only preacher to go to the White House and Benjamin Harrison of Indianapolis), Mormons, Mennonites and war and peace issues.

Ringenberg and his wife of fifty-six years, Becky, have four children and eight grandchildren. Together they love to attend fine arts performances and sporting events, and to travel.

“For those who desire to rise above their times or stand outside their cultures, there are three sure ways. In ascending order they are travel, history, and direct knowledge of God,” Os Guiness said.

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