Meet Your Professors

DR. ROBERT REYNOLDS - PA HISTORY,
ENVIRONMENTAL & MORE
Dr. Reynolds sitting at his wooden desk
  • Q: What made you want to become a professor?

    “I didn’t think about becoming a professor at first. I worked as a restoration artisan for the park service. Eventually, my job wanted me to work in Maine rather than New Jersey, but I needed to stay in one place since I was getting married. After that, I helped start a preservation program at Bucks County Community College, and that drew me in as a part-time teacher. The school liked me so I started teaching full-time. That is when I went back to school to get my doctorate.”

  • Q: Why did you pick history as your field?

    “I have always been interested in history, even as a child. I was especially drawn to history because of my grandparents. They were very interested in genealogy. My grandmother on my father’s side is related to Daniel Webster. I was also drawn to history due to my experiences as a restoration artisan.”  

  • Q: Did you have any other professions before teaching?

    “I first went to Gettysburg College, and I fell in love with the battlefield and the landscape of the place. I loved the idea that the landscape could still reflect the Civil War so many years later.

    Ultimately, I ended up pursuing the preservation and study of landscape and the vernacular architecture. It was my senior year of college when I found a brochure to become an apprentice for the National Trust for historic preservation. I filled it out, and I was hired a week later. That is what started it all. The job provided me with free housing so I ended up living in Lyndhurst Mansion which is the finest gothic revival house in America. I lived there for about a year and I worked on the restoration of the house along with a lot of other projects.

    While I was doing that I got an offer from the park service which was closer to where I grew up in New Jersey. I ended up being a carpenter’s helper for the National Park Service, and I let go of my job with the National Trust. During my work for the National Park Service, I worked on a farmhouse from the 1750s which is called the Tempe Wick House. After that, I got transferred to work on the restoration of Thomas Edison’s house for about a year. The highlight of that experience was when the last surviving child of Thomas Edison, Theodore Edison, came to the house for a tour. He told me stories about growing up in the house.

    Then, I decided that I really liked historic preservation so I ended up going to the University of Vermont. It was an incredible experience because the focus was on vernacular architecture and I got an internship with the State Preservation Office of New York in Albany. I studied Dutch barns for a whole summer. I ended up in Pennsylvania because I got a job at the Buck’s County Conservancy. I was there for two and half years and I photographed 27,000 buildings doing historic site survey work for the state. I would go township by township, and I photographed every building fifty years or older within the area. I really enjoyed going to farms and talking to the oldest people that I met there. They had lived there their whole lives and knew the history of the whole area around them. I could spend the whole day there because I was learning so much about Pennsylvania architecture. I realized that I wasn’t going to grow with this job after a certain point.

    Then, I was offered a job to teach an American architecture class at the Bucks County Community College. It made it practical for me to go to graduate school. I went to Lehigh University, and I ended up getting a teaching assistantship there. When I finished my dissertation, I got hired by Penn State Hazelton as an adjunct professor. After that I saw an advertisement for Kutztown and I came here in 2003. I shared an office with Dave Valeska and he ran the Pennsylvania German Heritage Center. He let me take over the position. I worked there for a few years while also teaching art education classes before I went back to teaching history full-time for the department.”

  • Q: Are there any stories behind the retro furniture in your office?

    “I like to collect antique boats, cars, and furniture. As for the furniture in my office, I wanted to be in an office that I actually wanted to spend time in so I filled my office with things that I like. My bookcases are from my wife’s grandfather who was a doctor from the 20’s.”

  • Q: Can you tell us about the book that you are writing?

    “Once I was teaching full-time again for the history department, I started working on my book. I am now getting to the end of finishing my first major book.

    I grew up going to Beaver Lake during my summers. It is a summer community that encourages people to step away from technology, and to enjoy the outdoors. I wondered if there were other summer communities like Beaver Lake. That inspired me to pursue research about summer communities. There was actually a whole social movement at the turn of the century for middle class people to escape city life part-time. By escaping city life part-time, people can recharge themselves and can become more successful when they go back to work. My book has a focus on the national movement, the community that I grew up in, and how the area around my community grew from the Civil War up to the 1950s.

    My lake was an experimental summer colony. It was by invitation only, and the homes typically stay within families. It is really fascinating because all of my sources are from private archives and records. I have been working on this book for over 40 years. I started interviewing people in my summer community as a young teenager. This has been a huge project for me, but I am almost done drafting it.”

  • Q: What is your favorite part about being a history professor at Kutztown?

    “My favorite part is watching students succeed and grow. I enjoy helping students improve upon their writing. I also like how teaching has a fresh start every semester. I like that I get to pursue my other passions when I am not teaching.”

Dr. Patricia Kelleher - american social history
  • Q: What inspired you to become a professor?

    “I was really interested in history and back then, people taught if they wanted history as their profession. Now, there is a much wider range of professions for people with history degrees. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my PhD and I was able to do a lot of research which was really fun. Once I started teaching as an adjunct, I found that I love to teach.”

  • Q: How did you end up teaching at Kutztown?

    “I stayed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for over 20 years. I was an adjunct professor for the women studies program, and then I went back to teaching history. After that, I went to the University of New Hampshire for a three-year job. Then, I saw an ad for Kutztown University and it became my first tenure job.”

  • Q: What made you choose history?

    “My parents, but especially my father was interested in history. My house was full of books, and I loved to read. My parents really tried to help me find my talent. I tried ballet, swimming, piano lessons, but I was much more interested in reading. I found that the more I read about history, the more I wanted to learn about history. By 7th or 8th grade, I was extremely fascinated with history.”

  • Q: What is your favorite area?

    “It changes all the time. Right now, I am most interested in gender studies. I love teaching all of my classes because they are so different from one another. However, I am really drawn to my Families and Personal Lives in American History course at the moment because it is only my second time teaching this course. It’s a new challenge that I am really enjoying.”

  • Q: Do you have a teaching philosophy?

    “I think that my philosophy of teaching is centered around students thinking for themselves. I want students to work on their own views by basing their analyses on creditable evidence. I want students to respect themselves by coming up with their own answers to inquiries.”

  • Q: What is your favorite part about being a history professor at KU?

    “My favorite part is definitely the teaching aspect. This year in particular, I have found that I also enjoy learning about new courses for the university. I am on the Liberal Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee, and so I see the course proposals that are generated in this college’s departments. It is fun to see professors put together courses in ways that I wouldn’t have thought of. I have really grown in respect for what goes on across the college. There are some truly thoughtful and amazing course proposals. We have fantastic faculty members that are putting together remarkable courses.”

Dr. Derr in regalia with a female and male graduate - all smiling
Dr. Patricia norred Derr - american colonial studies (retired)
  • Q: What led you to teach?

    “Actually, history is a second career for me. My original degree is in journalism and I did university relations for a technical school. Then, I went back to school to get my master’s and my PhD in history. I started teaching in grad school and I discovered that I loved it. I found that I have the most fun when I am in teaching a class.”

  • Q: Why is history your field?

    “I had always liked history and I had always been good in history, but I never thought I could make a career out of teaching history. I knew I didn’t want to teach high school. Frankly, I didn’t think I was smart enough to get a doctorate degree. Fortunately, I proved myself wrong.” 

  • Q: What brought you from Texas to Kutztown?

    “My doctorate is from the University of Missouri and when I was on the east coast doing research for my dissertation, I met my future husband. It was my now husband that saw an ad that Kutztown was looking for temporary faculty. I was in Canada on my Fulbright at the time, and I applied for the position. I started as temporary faculty in 1994. I never expected to stay at Kutztown. I figured I would finish my dissertation and go someplace else. However, my husband’s career took off here and Kutztown grew on me. I liked the students and I liked the town, so we settled down here.”

  • Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

    “I tend to lecture a lot as opposed to doing a lot of group work. My philosophy of teaching involves convincing students that they can do this work. A lot of times students particularly coming out of the public-school system of this era of standardized tests are really afraid to advance an argument. I try to encourage students not to see history in terms of black and white, and not to try to find “the” answer. I encourage students to look for “an” answer, and to make an argument about the past. When I am able to do that, and when students trust me as well as themselves, that is when students really grow. I also encourage students to think and differently than me, and to dig into sources so they can develop their own world views.”

  • Q: What is your favorite part about being a history professor at KU?

    “Easily, the students. There are a lot of special people here that I am going to miss and the vast majority of them are the students. I have so enjoyed getting to know the students, and watching them do things that they thought they couldn’t do. I am really going to miss that.”

  • Q: What are your favorite areas of history to study?

    “By training, I am an American Colonial Historian and that is my central focus. I also have a field in religious history and I am looking forward to reading more books about it. I have taught other classes while here, so I have my foot in more modern history. I teach a popular culture course at the moment.”

  • Q: What are your plans for after teaching?

    “My mother left me with archival boxes of family letters, so my first project is to go through the letters and hopefully turn them into a book. I am looking forward to reading a lot. My husband and I am looking forward to traveling. Our goal is to try to see as many UNESCO World Heritage sites as much as a possible.”

Dr. Eric Johnson - Early Modern Studies
  • Q: What led you to teach?

    “There was a major turning point when I was twenty where I had one of those epiphany moments. I had always wanted to get into law enforcement, but travel actually led me to teaching. My grandmother on my mother’s side was French, and she was also a French professor at a school in California. She kept insisting that I should visit her summer house in France. I was reluctant to visit and to step outside of my comfort bubble, but I eventually visited. I experienced so much while in France, and I wanted to learn more about it, and I wanted to go back. Ultimately, my travels led me to academia and teaching.”

  • Q: Why did you choose history as your field?

    “I always had plans to eventually get a bachelor’s degree. Even wanting to get a career in law enforcement, my intention was to have a bachelor’s degree for it. That being said, I have always been interested in the past. As a kid, I thought I wanted to be an archeologist. I was most interested in European archeology, the European past, and especially the middle ages. I remember as a really small kid, my parents took me to the King Tutankhamun exhibit, and I was always obsessed with mummies, Egypt, and just old things in general. I realized that the best way for me to work with the material that I wanted to work with was to do history.”

  • Q: Did you have a previous career?

    “My first job was in retail. I worked for a record store, and I was a manager there for almost a year. I didn’t like it because there wasn’t any reciprocity. It was a good lesson for me. I also volunteered as a Boy Scouts camp counselor and leader for six years. There were a lot of responsibilities. I helped run the camp. I guess that is what kind of formulated me at the time. I could’ve stayed home and worked at a retail job to make actual money, but instead I spent two months of every summer teaching the Boy Scouts. Being a park ranger for the city of Anaheim was my longest career before being a professor. I thought it would be a good experience before going into law enforcement. I really enjoyed that job because it was very flexible. I was able to work as a park ranger while also completing my school work. The job allowed me to stop working during my Fulbright year. I liked the job because it was a challenge, and I was often the first person on the scene to help others. I liked being able to help people when they needed help the most.”

  • Q: What is your favorite part about being a history professor at KU?

    “That is an easy one. Being part of the incredible accomplishments of my students is my favorite part. This past summer, I had a birthday party in town, and among the attendees were some of my former students. The cards that they wrote to me were very heartfelt. I have been teaching long enough to develop a cohort of alumni, and they attribute their success to what I have done for them. I have students that attribute their confidence to me because I encouraged and supported them. It is very rewarding to encourage and support students and tell them that they are doing well because a lot of students do not realize their potential. I actually flunked out of community college. I can relate to students who are first-generation college students, and I can relate to students who struggle with the transition from high school to college because I was one of them. It is rewarding to watch students self-reflect, and it's amazing to be a part of that because I know that I can give back to students and help them self-reflect. Ultimately, watching students succeed is my favorite part of being a professor. I’ve been very fortunate and I use that good fortune to be what I could’ve used when I was their age.”

  • Q: Tell us about your study abroad adventures in Ireland.

    “I know that our study abroad program is the best that Kutztown University has to offer, and I can support that position. The vast majority of the students that go on our study abroad trips are traveling abroad for the first time. I can relate to how these students feel, and I am grateful to be able to pass along the experience of traveling abroad because they never come back the same. I do the trip with Dr. Vogel from the English Department and Dr. Lanter from the Psychology Department. We typically have about seven students each. My trip is a study of the transition from prehistoric Ireland to Christian Ireland. We study the culture during this transition and how people make sense of religion. While a new religion enters, that does not mean that everything from before it goes away.”

  • Q: Your family joined you in the U.K. after your study abroad class ended. Tell us about that.

    “My wife and kids met us in Dublin for almost a week. When the students went back to the states, we flew to Edinburgh, and we spent the next month traveling up and down Scotland. It was my children’s first time abroad. They had an eye-opening experience and had a great time. I am grateful that I was able to provide that experience for them at such a young age. I also took our son to London, and my wife took our daughter to Rome. Overall, it is not relaxing traveling with family, but it was a very enriching experience."

  • Q: Is there another country you would like to visit?

    “I would like to go places that have a rich, classical, and ancient history. In particular, I would like to go to Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. I would also like to visit Central Asia and some of the Silk Road places. You can’t do European history without understanding North Africa, the Silk Road, and the Middle East. You cannot study European history in isolation from the world.”

Dr. Johnson holding an owl