John J. Fry
Professor of History, Department Chair,
Academic Dean, and Director of Foundations Program
on faculty since 2003
If John Fry did not teach history, he might teach the joy of being a college professor. He writes, “I love teaching at Trinity. I love history, I love the students, and I love the sense of community among the faculty. My goal is to enable students to think about the past and grasp how to support a point with evidence from the past.”
Fry enjoys his job most when students begin to make connections between the past and the present—when they understand that the way they live today has been shaped by the choices that people made in the past. “These are not just their families’ choices but the choices of political, economic, and religious leaders from 50, 100, 500 years ago and more. Even more importantly, I want students to come away with a deeper understanding of Christ’s work from studying history. History is our tutor in that it shows us our sin and leads us to Christ.”
Fry came to Trinity in 2003 to help build the College’s history program. He graduated from Geneva College with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1991. He then earned two master’s degrees, one in library science at the University of Pittsburgh and another in history at Duquesne University. He later earned a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa.
Fry has published two books. His most recent one appeared just last summer: Almost Pioneers: One Couple’s Homesteading Adventure in the West. (http://almostpioneers.wordpress.com) It tells the story of Laura and Earle Smith, a couple from Iowa who homesteaded in Wyoming during the 1910s. The manuscript was written by Laura, and Fry added footnotes to give the background of people, places, and events, and wrote an afterword to place the Smiths’ story in historical context. This year is the one-hundredth anniversary of the Smith’s moving to the West. His first book, The Farm Press, Reform, and Rural Change, 1895-1920, was published in 2005 and investigates what farmers in the Midwest were reading at the turn of the twentieth century.
He is also an authority on the biography and works of Laura Ingalls Wilder and has presented public lectures both at Trinity and at Grove City College in Pennsylvania about Wilder’s influence on American culture and politics. From 2004 to 2009, he served as the director of the Newberry Seminar in Rural History, which brought rural history scholars from across the country to discuss their work at the Newberry Library in downtown Chicago.
As chair of the history department, Fry teaches both of the college’s general education history courses, as well as upper-level American history courses, history methods courses, and occasionally the history of the modern Middle East.
Away from the classroom, Fry enjoys reading books, taking walks, riding bikes, and camping with his family. Married to his wife, Paula, since 1992, they have four children: Deborah, Stephen, Benjamin, and Daniel. They attend Westminster Presbyterian Church (O. P. C.) in Indian Head Park, Illinois.
Ph.D., University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, 2002
M.A., Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1997
M.L.S., University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1992
B.A., Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, 1991
Courses and Publications/Research
- American Colonies: 1492-1800
- America and Western Civilization
- Envisioning America: 1900-Present
- Europe and Western Civilization
- History of the American West
- History of the Middle East
- Introduction to Historical Inquiry
- Philosophy of History
Papers Published and/or Presented
Laura Gibson Smith, Almost Pioneers: One Couple’s Homesteading Adventure in the West. Edited with an Afterword by John J. Fry. Guilford, CT: Globe-Pequot Press, 2013. http://almostpioneers.wordpress.com
John J. Fry, “Henry A. Wallace.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Political and Legal History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
“The Politics of Laura Ingalls Wilder: Conversations about History, Literature, Politics, and Writing.” Freshman English Lecture sponsored by the Department of English, Trinity Christian College, 24 October 2011.
Paul Kengor and John J. Fry, “V&V Q&A: The Politics of Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Interview with the director of the Center for Vision and Values, Grove City College, syndicated to regional newspapers, 21 September 2009 and available at: http://www.visionandvalues.org/2009/09/vv-qa-the-politics-of-laura-ingalls-wilder/
“The Politics of Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Lecture sponsored by the Center for Vision and Values and Department of English, Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania, 28 September 2009.
“Almost Pioneers: Mobility, Western Agriculture, and the American Dream.” Paper presented at the Agricultural History Society Annual Meeting, Little Rock, Arkansas, 19 June 2009.
The Farm Press, Reform, and Rural Change, 1895-1920. New York: Routledge. 2005.
“‘Good Farming–Clear Thinking–Right Living:’ Midwestern Farm Newspapers, Social Reform, and Rural Readers in the Early Twentieth Century.” Agricultural History 78, pp. 34-49. Winter 2004.