As the incoming department chair, Prof. Jeanne Harrie is the perfect focus for this edition of our periodic Faculty Profile. Prof. Rink’s semi-retirement—he will teach two terms per year—will make Prof. Harrie the senior-most full-time member of our department come September. She has been the department’s Early Modern European historian since her arrival here in 1976. She also covers the High and Late European Middle Ages. She has served the department faithfully in many ways over the years, and this will be at least her second stint as department chair. She has also long been the university’s Social Science Coordinator.
Prof. Harrie has long been a lover of history, something she may have inherited from her dad, whom she remembers in her childhood coming home from work as an architect and settling “into a chair with the local newspaper, the latest history book of choice, and an atlas.” Although she took little interest in the historical makers her dad insisted the family stop and see during family trips, she enjoyed reading biographies at an early age. In college she planned first to major in pre-med and then political science, but left both behind for history in the end. Fond of philosophy and literature, she notes that she determined that “a history major would allow me to indulge my interests in ideas and imagined worlds within the framework of history.”
Asked whether there was a particular course or professor in college that piqued her interest in history or had a substantial impact on her future, she shared the following: “There were two very different men. One, with whom I stay in touch, had a flair for the dramatic phrase. I will never forget him greeting me in a booming voice as I walked down the hall toward his office with the statement: ‘Deep in the mines of Mexico the fall of the Bastille was prepared!’ How does one respond to that? He clearly had the ability to provoke students to think about connections about what might appear to be discrete events. The other was a young professor with a real gift in the classroom. He was such an effective lecturer that he quickly was assigned responsibility for all lectures in our three-quarter world history sequence. His gift was to inspire several of my small class [at Seattle University] to become historians. Four of us attended graduate school and at least three are practicing historians. He was a specialist in early modern Spain and inspired me to focus my studies on the history of early modern Europe.”
Once in graduate school—at UC Riverside—Prof. Harrie became particularly interested in the sixteenth century, “in part because of the complexity of its religious and political events, which shaped the intellectual and cultural life of the period.” She focused on the Hermetic tradition for her doctoral dissertation and early publications.
Having taught over one hundred classes in her years at CSUB—and thousands of students—Prof. Harrie had particularly fond memories of one very special History 204 class: it “was filled with some of the best students who have gone through our program. Many were a little older and had considerable life experience, thereby intimidating the only freshman in the course (who survived to go on to be a teacher). The late Steve Reilly was in that course and he was always provocative and funny. Of course, I have had many challenging teaching experiences and have especially enjoyed those classes in which the students were lively, engaged, and willing to challenge their instructor.”
A number of hobbies fill Prof. Harrie’s free time. She would love to be able to travel more, and would, had she more time and money. Her most exotic trip has probably been to Cairo, Egypt, where she visited her daughter, who was on a study abroad program, last December. Future destinations include Istanbul, Prague, and Italy. She is also a terrific gardener and cultivates roses, among other things. She’s a prolific reader (“everything from mysteries to Orhan Pamuk’s and Ian McEwan’s latest novels”), and enjoys film as well.
Of course, summer will bring a real respite, for which she already has a number of plans: catching up “on my reading, including the stacks of The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books that pile up over the course of the year, work in my yard (weather permitting), think about my fall quarter courses, and generally recuperate from the rigors of the academic year."
Prof. Harrie describes her future research projects this way: “I have been working on and off for quite awhile on two projects: one an analysis of a strange 16th-century treatise on the Eucharist that makes use of Hermetic philosophy to interpret the sacrament; and the other a study of a Eucharistic conference held in Paris in the middle of the 16th century. Both reflect my interest in the uses of the Eucharist amid the tumult of the French religious wars.”
Please join me in welcoming Prof. Jeanne Harrie as the department’s new Chair, beginning July 1. We are extremely fortunate to have her experience, institutional knowledge, and concern for our program and students.