Dr. Merle Strege, professor of historical theology, and Dr. Brian Dirck, professor of history, are both currently writing accounts of history. Strege’s focus is on the history of Anderson University, while Dirck is focusing on two books: one about Abe Lincoln’s perception on race and the other on Lincoln and the Constitution.
Strege attended Anderson University’s undergraduate program from 1965-69, majoring in history and minoring in English and Bible. He then attended seminary at AU from 1969-72. Strege has been on faculty for 30 years and has been publishing for 25.
Strege has published and written many books including a published collection of articles and essays of the Church of God called “Tell Me the Tale” and the sequel “Tell Me Another Tale.” He then wrote a book titled “I Saw the Church” about the history on the inner-life of the Church of God. He co-authored the book “God’s Redeeming Story” and revised and enlarged the standard history of the Church of God called “Quest for Holiness and Unity.” Strege has a passion for writing about the history of the Church of God and Anderson University. He thinks historical writing is a moral and political art. “Moral not in the sense of telling people what to do, but moral in the sense of helping people understand their identity,” said Strege.
When writing the history of a university, the genre is called institutional history. This genre has a reputation for being dull reading because it is very factual and timeline-oriented. Fortunately, Strege read a few examples of institutional history, which has shaped his idea for the direction of his book. He intends to tell the story of the Church of God, the people and personalities of the administration, presidents, faculty and students over time.
“When I went to school here I heard over and over again from Dr. Reardon, ‘An institution is its people, not the building,’ so if that’s the case, if you’re going to tell the story of an institution like Anderson, you need to tell the story of its people,” said Strege.
In writing the history of AU, Strege hopes to contribute to a community understanding, and if they understand who they are, then it helps them know who they are, ultimately who the people ought to be in the community.
“When I think of this particular project I have told a few people the project of writing the history of AU is very exciting for me. I’ve written about higher education, education as moral foundation, about the Church of God and the institution,” said Strege. “A sense in which many of my interests are coming together to make his project one that I’ve been thinking and writing for the past 30 years. I am prepared to work on this.”
Strege plans to use stories of people to show what kind of moral standards AU holds. A few individuals will be highlighted in his book because it conveys and tells the story of AU’s character. Galen Smith known as “Coach Smith,” was a son of the editor of the “Gospel Trumpet” at the Church of God who impacted and played a major role in the athletic events at Anderson during the years when Strege was in school.
“Smith showed up at every athletic contest and intramural, sat at the end of the team bench for basketball games, stood along the sidelines at football games and was at the baseball games as well,” said Strege. He had become ill as a child and it resulted in sustained damage to his mental abilities, but he could function in society. He always got in free to every game and was a mainstay here at the college. “The fact that the institution made a place for Galen, says something about what kind of institution Anderson is,” said Strege.
Strege’s book is scheduled to come out in 2017 during the centennial anniversary of the founding of the institution.
Dr. Brian Dirck came to AU in 1998 after graduating from the University of Kansas with a Ph.D. Dirck enjoys the liberal arts atmosphere at AU where he gets to know his colleagues and students. He enjoys being able to interact with more than just the history department due to the liberal arts requirements.
Dirck has written and published several books over the years. First, his dissertation, which is a composition of the two civil war presidents, a reference book about legal issues of waging war and “Lincoln the Lawyer,” which won the Barondess Award for best Abraham Lincoln book in 2007. He is currently working on two books: “New Study on Abe and Race” and “The Everyman’s Library on Abraham Lincoln.”
Scholar Phil Paladin served as Dirck’s advisor and research assistant. Paladin encouraged him to get published. Dirck was turned down by three publishers before finally landing one. “Once you have your foot in the door, they start asking you for more work,” said Dirck.
“New Study on Abe and Race” focuses on Lincoln’s perception of race, what he thought of African Americans and Native Americans, how many blacks he actually knew and what his identity as a white man did for his opinions. It’s ironic that Dirck’s grandmother was pro-confederate and would not even speak of Lincoln, considering Dirck has such a unique interest in Lincoln’s life. Dirck is more than halfway finished with this book and is traveling the summer of 2010 to do further research in Illinois and Washington, D.C. The book will be approximately 300 pages and is due February 2011 and will be published by the University of Kansas.
“The Everyman’s Library on Abraham Lincoln” is scholarly yet comprehendible for the average person to find readable. The book portrays Lincoln as a man discussing his marriage and being commander in chief. The book is going to be around 200 pages, published by Southern Illinois University Press and will be finished in its entirety by the end of the year.
— Lydia Smith is a senior from Indianapolis, Ind., majoring in communication arts and minoring in peace and conflict transformation. Smith is an associate with Fifth Street Communications, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.