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Don Kraybill announces June retirement

Feb 24th, 2015 | By | Category: Lead Article, News

This article originally appeared in E-town NOW

Donald B. “Don” Kraybill, known worldwide as the foremost expert on Amish culture is teaching his last classes at Elizabethtown College this semester. Kraybill retires at the end of June. The Distinguished College Professor and Senior Fellow at the College’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies teaches in the Sociology and Religious Studies departments. He will give his last major address at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 20 at the College’s Scholarship and Creative Arts Days.

Kraybill started at Elizabethtown College in 1971 as an assistant professor of sociology. He has served as chair of the Sociology and Social Work Department and as director of the Young Center.

Beginning in 1994, he served the College as the Carl W. Zeigler Professor of Religion and Philosophy but left the College two years later to become provost and professor of Anabaptist studies at Messiah College.

… Kraybill is perhaps best known for stepping into the breach as unofficial spokesman for reluctant Amish …”

Kraybill returned to Elizabethtown College in 2002 as a Distinguished College Professor and Senior Fellow at the Young Center, a position he holds today. From 2003 to 2004 Kraybill was interim provost.

Kraybill is a native of Lancaster County, Pa., where he grew up Mennonite on dairy farms among the Amish and other Anabaptist groups.

He earned a master’s degree in 1972 and a doctoral degree in sociology in 1975 from Temple University. His post-doctorate work was with the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

At Temple, Kraybill was a research assistant to John Hostetler, the leading scholar of Amish culture in the 1960s and 1970s. It was Hostetler’s work that piqued Kraybill’s interest in the Amish. Hostetler was an expert witness in the Supreme Court decision of 1972 that ruled that the Amish do not need to attend school after completing eighth grade.

Kraybill edits Young Center books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Kraybill has written and coauthored 29 books, published across the globe, including the most recent, “Renegade Amish: Beard Cutting, Hate Crimes, and the Trial of the Bergholz Barbers,” “Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites,” “The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World,” with Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher, “The Amish of Lancaster County” and “The Amish,” with Karen M. Johnson-Weiner and Steven M. Nolt. Several of his books have been selected as an Outstanding Academic Book.

Kraybill’s hardcover, “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy,” written with Nolt and Weaver-Zercher, explored the 2006 Amish schoolhouse shootings in Nickel Mines, Pa. The book was translated in Japanese, German, Korean, Chinese and French and earned a 2008 Award of Merit from Christianity Today. It also was selected as a Best Book of 2007 by Publisher’s Weekly and as a Best Spiritual Book of 2007 by Spirituality & Practice.

Overall, Kraybill’s writings have been translated into nine languages and his research on Anabaptist groups has been featured in journals, magazines and newspapers, and on radio and television.

In addition to his teaching, writing and his duties as Senior Fellow, Kraybill is the go-to guy for media, across the globe, whenever they are covering stories about the Amish community. Kraybill has served as a consultant for projects related to the Amish and to other Anabaptist groups. He has earned support for his research from The National Endowment for the Humanities and numerous private foundations.

In a recent article in LNP, Lancaster, Pa.’s, newspaper Ad Crable, notes , “…the 69-year-old Kraybill is perhaps best known for stepping into the breach as unofficial spokesman for reluctant Amish when they have been thrust into the international media glare.”

Over the years, the scholar has explained the Amish culture and has put rumors to rest in various venues by answering difficult questions after the shocking school shooting, a heartbreaking event for which he interpreted the forgiveness expressed by the parents of the ten children who were shot. He served as the academic consultant to two-hour documentary THE AMISH produced by the American Experience that aired on PBS in 2012. It was the most viewed American Experience program in the previous seven years.

More recently, Kraybill has cleared up misinformation surrounding the sensationalized “Amish Mafia” television show and spoke out about and served as an expert for the prosecution during the bizarre beard-cutting trials in Ohio.

The LNP article tells how Kraybill does not see himself as a protector of the Amish. He views it as his “vocational responsibility to try to interpret their beliefs and practices with sympathetic understanding of what they do, why they do it and try to explain it in truthful fashion without sensationalism and hyperbole.”

He did that so well, the article said, that some in the Amish community are worried about who is to represent them in the future. His successor has yet to be named.

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