Feature Article

Putting the 'Human' in Humanities

Historian Denny Frey

Frey, the mentor students love to learn from

For a scholar whose prize-winning doctoral dissertation was entitled "Industrious Households: Wealth Management and ‘Handwerker' Strategies in Göppingen, 1735-1865," Associate Professor of History Dennis A. Frey, Jr. can swing a mean ice hockey stick. And his passions in life span just about everything in between the podium and the puck, from advocating for social justice to savoring single-malt Scotch whiskey. Frey holds a BS in Social History from Carnegie Mellon University, and an MA in European History and Ph.D. in Early Modern European History, both from Syracuse University. A former Fulbright Scholar, he has authored many scholarly publications and presented his research at international conferences. Frey joined the Lasell faculty in 2004 and served two consecutive terms as chair of the Humanities Department. Raised in Ohio, he lives in Sudbury with his wife, Dr. Colleen Costello, a regulatory affairs director at an area biopharmaceutical firm, and their 13-year-old daughter, Siobhan and her twin brother, Seamus. Leaves sat down with the popular professor in his cozy Winslow Academic Center office just before the start of the academic year. In Birkenstocks, sans signature bow-tie, he looked every bit the welcoming, accessible mentor Lasell students love to learn from.

Who are your heroes? Given that my field of study (socio-cultural history) eschews heroes, I'll simply say . . . those common women and men who stand up to injustices, who advocate for thoughtfulness and understanding, and who keep their eyes squarely on humane treatment of each other as opposed to any grand theory, conviction or ideology.

(Comment on your role as faculty lead on the task force charged with reforming Lasell's core curriculum. I'd been deeply involved in the work of both assessment and the creation of Lasell's institutional learning outcomes for 10 years when I was asked to take on this role. In developing the new core, I had the great good fortune of collaborating with an amazing group of faculty colleagues, all of us dedicated to that which matters most: the growth of our students to become lifelong learners with enhanced opportunities for career success.

Historians who most inspire you? Frederick Marquardt (my doctoral advisor), Mary Lindemann and Friedrich Lenger. All are phenomenal scholars of German history who take a socio-cultural approach to their studies.

What's currently on your night table? The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (collected novels) by Douglas Adams, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt and Geschichte Baden-Württembergs by Otto Borst.

Non-academic interests? Coaching youth ice hockey and soccer, listening to my twins play the piano (and in Siobhan's case, also the trombone), watching movies, tasting wines from the south of France and Italy.

What's best about teaching at Lasell? The innovative/entrepreneurial approach of the institution and faculty and the way it fits our particular student body. We are nimble enough to work communally to cultivate our students who, in turn, make teaching at Lasell a pleasure. Not only are they genuine and kind, most of them come to us with amazing untapped potential. Our smallish community, coupled with our Connected Learning philosophy, combine to unleash that potential; many students soar once they realize that Connected Learning also means connecting to, and taking charge of, their own intellect. When it works, there is nothing better.

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