In his three years teaching at Northwestern, Prof. John Lynn has focused on an area that often does not fall at the forefront of a history curriculum.
Lynn, a military historian, said administrators at other universities have traditionally found the field to have “no social purpose,” but he believes the courses he teaches, including the origins of modern warfare, stress crucial issues.
“I’m teaching subjects which I think, in my mind, are always things that matter in the real world in a very real way,” he said.
But Lynn, a temporary faculty member who retired from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before coming to NU in 2009, will not be returning to teach next year. He said his renewed three-year contract would have given him a two-thirds salary cut. He will return to the University of Illinois to teach military history courses.
Lynn signed a three-year contract to teach at NU in 2007. But when he took his position at NU, he said he was told that due to the recession, he might not be guaranteed a renewal as a temporary faculty member.
Weinberg Dean Sarah Mangelsdorf said in Lynn’s first three years, his salary came from both Weinberg and the history department and totaled a greater amount than that normally received by a temporary faculty member on a per-course basis. Had he decided to stay at NU for the next three years, Lynn would have been offered the “standard” per-course salary normally awarded to emeritus faculty members, Mangelsdorf said.
Mangelsdorf also said when Lynn signed his original contract, it was made clear that a renewal containing the same deal was never promised, but rather was “contingent upon strong teaching and available institutional resources.” With the recent recession, Mangelsdorf said, Weinberg has been more conservative than in the past in hiring senior faculty members.
“We’re probably more likely to hire assistant professors than senior people, and we probably don’t do as many searches in any one year as was done before the recession,” she said.
Weinberg senior Melanie Moore said she decided to take Lynn’s century of modern warfare class this quarter after taking his history of terrorism course in the fall.
“I really liked his teaching style,” Moore said. “I like the fact that he gives you both sides of an argument and he tells you his opinion even though it might not be what is popular or what most scholars also believe.”
While Lynn said he is glad Illinois is giving him the opportunity to return, he will miss being at NU.
“I find it fairly magical here,” he said. “It meant a lot to be here, and it’s a source of unhappiness for me to leave, but it’s a different world than when I signed to come here.”