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Although Mitri Musleh (U’75) has not lived in the Luther College Residence at the University campus (LCUR) for over forty-five years, he says that it’s never stopped feeling like home. This sentiment is manifested clearly to an outside observer as Mitri strolls into LCUR for his interview appointment for this profile. He heads straight to the LCUR Cafeteria, where a conversation with a long-time cafeteria staff member ensues. Incredibly, the staff member he was catching up with worked for Luther all those years ago, when Mitri frequented the cafeteria as a student and tenant of the LCUR Residence.
LCUR Residence first opened in 1971, the same year that Mitri moved to Canada from Bethlehem, his birthplace. Thus, Mitri was one of the first students to move in and call the residence home. He recalls that in 1972 Jim Dale, the Dean of Residence at the time, came to him and told him about another resident student who had just arrived. Ateih, a native of Jordan, was completing his Ph.D. in Biochemistry. Jim Dale thought the two men might get on rather well, and it turned out that he was right. Mitri and Ateih met, became best friends, and never looked back. Indeed, Mitri refers to Ateih as one of his “closest friends” and says, “Atieh was my family.” They were even roommates once Mitri moved out of the residence in 1975 upon the completion of his undergraduate degree. Mitri also met Randy Haatvedt while living in the Residence and to this day they remain very close friends regardless of the geographical distance that separates them. These relationships speak to the magic of Luther: so many lasting friendships are born under its roof.
In 1975, Mitri completed his Bachelor of Arts and convocated from Luther with a double major in Political Science and Psychology. After convocation, he met and married the love of his life, Barbara, and began working in management in the hospitality industry. In 1984, Mitri completed a second degree in Education, although he ultimately decided not to teach.
Though managing in the hospitality industry was work he enjoyed, as he and Barbara started their family, he increasingly found the hours did not allow him to spend enough time with his two young sons. “I wanted to be with my children and see them grow up,” Mitri says. He decided to look for a career with a more typical schedule, and in 1988 he began his thirty-year career in social work.
Mitri is grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those he works with: “working with students, working with people of need... [being able to] provide someone with advice, financial help, with whatever [direction] you give them [for] school, programming..., or work... it is very rewarding.”
In addition to allowing more time with his family, his career in social work gave him both the financial means and the time to pursue other interests: in the mid-1990’s, he completed a Master’s Degree in Political Science, and since then he has written two non-fiction books and a number of articles on various topics relating to political science.
The Ambiguous Triangle, Mitri's first book, was published in 2011. In the book, which is based on much of the research from his M.A. thesis, he uses various theories of psychology to look at ways of resolving political conflicts (looking specifically at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict). In his most recent publication, The Making of a Palestinian Suicide Bomber (2015), he explores the brutal reality of occupation, which, he posits, is at the root of the creation of the suicide bomber. “Get rid of occupation in these countries and you get rid of the bomber.” Mitri also continues to write for a number of online magazines based out of countries around the world on various topics relating to political science.
Mitri’s other published work came out in 2013. In the Eyes of a Foreign Student tells his own story of moving abroad and his experiences at Luther. Mitri explains the motivating force behind the writing of this book: “By that time I had grandchildren. I wanted them to know where their grandfather came from. At the same time... Ateih passed away. We had been friends for forty years. That’s when I decided to honour him in this book. To him, the Luther years were the best time in his life. He always emphasized how wonderful it was.”
Having recently retired in August 2016, Mitri says he is looking forward to enjoying time with his family, including his two now-grown sons -- one of whom is also a Luther alum, Shaadie Musleh (U’05) -- and his five grandchildren; completing some home renovations; doing some more writing; travelling with his wife; and not being on anyone’s clock. “The plan right now is not to have a plan.”
Remembering Luther College
His deep friendship with Ateih was among many other friendships that Mitri gained while at Luther. He recalls moving in a few days before the bulk of the other students got there and, once they arrived, realizing that he could stay in his room by himself, or venture out to make friends. To this day he continues to enjoy many of the friendships that were formed within Luther’s walls. “All my friends – my best friends – we all went to Luther.” Mitri recalls that living in the LCUR Residence really brought students together in a way that made them more than schoolmates – it made them family: “You live together, you eat together... you do everything together. You don't always like each other, but you're family. It was a wonderful life we had there.”
When asked to recall his fondest memory of Luther, Mitri shakes his head, refusing to name just one: “the relationships I had with everyone – administration, students, staff, and teachers.” He does specifically mention Paul Antrobus, whom he “knew personally” in spite of not taking many classes from him, and who he says “was a wonderful man.” He also speaks of Dr. Roland Miller, Dean of Luther from 1977 to 1991, whom he credits with helping him to complete his education degree. Mitri remembers venting to Roland about the difficulty he was having finding the right fit for his practicum. Dr. Miller suggested Luther College High School (LCHS). The suggestion was an excellent one: Mitri felt right at home at the High School campus, just as he did at the University campus, and he received a “wonderful recommendation” from his supervising teacher.
Mitri speaks of the staff, too, and how they helped to create the “warm [and] friendly atmosphere” with their incredible commitment to Luther students. Elizabeth Husli, better known as “Mom” to all of the students, helped provide the most delicious meals at Luther Cafeteria with a smile that was bigger than life. Mrs. Whitely, a secretary at Luther, would register Mitri by phone. “I never had to wait in line. I did not ask her to do that. I don't think she had to do it. People go above and beyond and they do it all the time here. I would recommend Luther for the rest of my life.”
Mitri’s story of deep connection with LCUR is a familiar one for Luther alumni. For many, Luther is so much more than an educational institution: “Even though I moved out,” he says, “I would always come back. Friends and I would always come back to Luther. To me it was more than a College. It's always been more than a College; it was a home.”