I’m writing this from the University of Chicago, where for the last few days I’ve been attending a small faculty seminar on the work of John Rawls. I’ve had the welcome opportunity to refamiliarize myself with Rawls’s work, and have some interesting discussions about it. More importantly, I’ve had the chance to interact with a small group of colleagues (there are about sixteen participants) from (mostly small) midwestern colleges and universities. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve made some connections that I hope will continue over the coming years.
But John Rawls isn’t the influential person I have in mind in this post’s title. Instead, I’m thinking of the late Ron Christenson. Ron’s certainly not as well known as Rawls, but on a personal level he’s far more important.
Ron was my mentor at Gustavus Adolphus College back in the late 1980s. I first encountered him my freshman year in a team-taught Western Civ course that was part of my core curriculum program. The man’s enthusiasm for ideas and learning was contagious, and I knew within the first few weeks of the semester that I wanted to take more courses with this guy. That’s how I ended up majoring in Political Science: it meant I could take courses from Ron.
It was Ron who introduced me to the field of political theory, and who thought I was asking some interesting and important questions. It was largely as a result of his encouragement that I chose to pursue graduate studies and a teaching career. In short, were it not for Ron, I wouldn’t be sitting in the Regenstein Library writing this post.