Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

In Memoriam: John S. Oyer, 1925-1998

Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

In Memoriam: John S. Oyer, 1925-1998

Article excerpt

THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW regrets to announce the death of John Stanley Oyer of Goshen, Indiana on May 4, 1998. Oyer was best-known internationally as the editor of MQR (1966-74 and 1977-92) and as a scholar of sixteenth-century Anabaptism. He also was a popular teacher of history at Goshen College (1955-1993) where he also served as Director of the Mennonite Historical Library from 1975 to 1987.

Born on January 5, 1925, the son of Noah and Siddie Oyer, John grew up in Goshen, Indiana where his father served for a period of time as dean of Goshen College. In the summer of 1943, following a year of study at Goshen College, Oyer was drafted and spent the next seven years in Civilian Public Service and relief work in Europe. In July of 1949 he married Carol Schertz, a relief worker from Illinois whom he had learned to know in Goshen.

When, in 1951, after finishing his undergraduate degree at Goshen College, Oyer embarked on a master's program in history at Harvard, he brought to his studies fresh memories of European cities smoldering in ashes and a keen awareness of the fragility of human civilization, which profoundly shaped his historical studies and his teaching. In his University of Chicago doctoral dissertation, for example, later published as Lutheran Reformers Against the Anabaptists (Nijhoff, 1964), Oyer recognized in the angry Lutheran polemics against the Anabaptists a deeper concern to preserve order in a society seemingly on the verge of chaos. And in his careful studies of Anabaptist martyrdom, he painstakingly sought to interpret the worldview, not only of the heroic martyr, but of the executioner and the Anabaptist recanter as well.

In the fall of 1955 Oyer began teaching in the Goshen College history department, a vocation that would continue for the next 38 years, interrupted only by several sabbatical leaves spent doing research in Europe. …

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