Yvonne Petry (History)

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A “Story from the Podium”

By Yvonne Petry (History)

One of my most memorable moments as a student came while I was attending the Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) in Saskatoon, where I studied for a semester after my B.A. and before my M.A. I was taking two courses from Dr. John Kleiner: “History of the Reformation” and “History of Jewish-Christian Relations”. From the very first day of class in the winter of 1988, Dr. Kleiner was a professor I knew I would like. He certainly possessed a keen intellect and vast knowledge, qualities that I had seen in most of my professors up to that point. However, he added to the expected scholarly attributes a dry sense of humour and a genuinely affable, good-hearted nature. He really seemed to enjoy teaching and interacting with his students.

The day that stands out in my mind most clearly occurred during the course on Jewish-Christian relations. Most of the course material was historical in nature, but on one particular day, Dr. Kleiner spoke about his German upbringing, and related an incident from his own childhood when, for reasons he didn’t fully understand himself, he said something mean to a Jewish boy in his class. As he told us this story, his eyes teared up. I had never before seen any professor – and certainly not a male history professor – talk about something so personal and reveal such candid emotion. The lesson I took from that day is that professors really are people, and that becoming an academic doesn’t mean discarding or camouflaging one’s humanity or one’s vulnerability.

Dr. Kleiner was a friend and mentor to me for many years afterwards. Based on the two courses that I took from him at LTS, I decided to pursue graduate studies in Reformation history. My studies at both the master’s and doctoral level involved the history of Jewish-Christian relations, a legacy of the interest that he had sparked in me that first semester. Dr. Kleiner passed away in 2004, and I still miss his kindness, warmth, good sense, and thoughtful guidance.