August 18, 2005
To Members of the Bowdoin Community,
I am saddened to inform you of the death of Paul L. Nyhus, former Dean of the College and Frank Andrew Munsey Professor of History Emeritus. Paul passed away yesterday, August 17, at his home in Brunswick after a long illness – just eleven days after his 70th birthday.
Paul joined the Bowdoin faculty in l966 as an instructor in the Department of History. He was promoted to the rank of assistant professor the following year. Known to a generation of Bowdoin students as Dean Nyhus, Paul was named acting Dean of Students in 1969. In l970 he became Dean of Students, and was named Dean of the College in l975.
A specialist in late medieval and early modern history, Paul taught courses at Bowdoin covering the period from ancient Greece through the Renaissance. He was promoted to the rank of associate professor in l973, and became a full professor in l979. At the end of the l979-80 academic year, he resigned as Dean of the College to return to full-time teaching duties. He was named to the Frank Andrew Munsey professorship in l989.
A native of Williston, N. D., who spent his early years in Cumberland, Wisc., Paul earned his A.B. degree summa cum laude at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn. He was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Heidelberg in Germany in l957-58, and was awarded a bachelor of sacred theology degree in l961 from the Harvard Divinity School. He earned his Ph.D. at Harvard in l967.
In March 1965, while a graduate student at Harvard, Paul participated in the second march to Montgomery organized by Dr. Martin Luther King – an experience that would forever strengthen and shape his commitment to civil liberties and racial equality. At its homecoming ceremonies in l978, Augsburg College honored Paul as one of its most distinguished graduates. The author of articles and reviews published in a variety of scholarly journals, Paul published studies of the Franciscans in the later Middle Ages and carried out research on the Reformation.
Paul was a distinguished member of Bowdoin's History Department faculty during the tenure of six out of Bowdoin's 14 presidents. As Dean of Students from 1969-74, he presided with skill and dedication during a period of great change and turmoil. It was during this period that Bowdoin took its first steps toward co-education, established the African-American Society, endured a student strike over the U.S. bombing of Cambodia, and wrestled with issues of student and faculty diversity. As Dean of the College, Paul also participated in campus debates that lead to Bowdoin's divestment in 1985 of investments in companies operating under apartheid in South Africa.
Paul retired in 2004, following a 38-year tenure as a beloved teacher of history, respected scholar, and inspirational leader. Earlier this year, a group of Paul's former honors and independent study advisees established The Paul L. Nyhus Travel Grants in his honor to provide travel grants for students studying history.
Paul is survived by his wife, Katharine J. Watson, Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art Emerita; his daughter Katharine Ellen Nyhus and her husband Christopher Cutroneo, of Manhattan Beach, Calif.; his daughter Karen Ida Nyhus and her husband David Mustart, of San Francisco; and his daughter, Kristina Victoria Rotach and her husband William, and their sons Carlton and Franklin of Columbus, Ohio; his step–mother Bernice of Cumberland, Wisc.; his brother Edward and wife Winnifred of Minneapolis, and their four children Philip of Waterville, Maine, Mark of Los Angeles, Linda and Susan of Minneapolis, their spouses, and four grand–nieces and one grand–nephew, and by his former wife and mother of his daughters, Ellen Crocker of Bethel, Maine.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in Paul's memory may be made to The Paul L. Nyhus Travel Grants Fund, 4100 College Station, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine 04011.
Paul's death marks the end of an era at Bowdoin. We have lost a dear friend of the College, a devoted educator, and a respected colleague. Katharine and the rest of Paul's family have the heartfelt condolences of a grateful college.