Paul Luther Nyhus, former dean of students, former dean of the college, and Frank Andrew Munsey Professor of History Emeritus, died on August 17, 2005, in Brunswick, Maine.
Born in Williston, ND, on Aug. 6, 1935, he was the son of Horace Einar Nyhus, a pastor in the Lutheran Free Church, and Ida Josephine Vigoren Nyhus. He spent his childhood in Fortuna, ND, Menominee, MI, and Cumberland, WI. He attended Oak Grove Lutheran High School in Fargo, ND, and graduated summa cum laude from Augsburg College in Minneapolis in 1957 as a philosophy major. The following year, he studied philosophy and history at the University of Heidelberg on a Fulbright Scholarship. He received his bachelor of sacred theology degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1961 and his doctorate in history in 1967 from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, with research focus on the history, literature, religious thought and culture of medieval, Renaissance and Reformation Europe. In March 1965, as a graduate student, he responded to the invitation issued nationwide by Martin Luther King to join a second march to Montgomery, AL. Professor Nyhus joined the faculty at the College in 1966. He was successively instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and professor in the department of history; he served as department chair from 1985 to 1988. In 1991, he was named the Frank Andrew Munsey Professor of History. He was the author of numerous scholarly reviews, articles and books, including Reform and Revolution: Franciscans in South Germany 1450-1530, published by the American Philosophical Society. Through his research, he developed deep affection for the Swiss city of Basel and interest in its Reformation history, the topic of his inaugural address as Munsey Professor and his last published article. In recent years, he had focused on the medieval and Renaissance history of Italy and Spain. He retired in 2004.
Professor Nyhus served Bowdoin as dean of students from 1969 to 1974, a period that saw the founding of the Afro- American Society, the establishment of co- education, and a student strike in 1970 in protest to the bombing of Cambodia. He was dean of the College from 1975 to 1980 and again in the fall of 1987.
He was a member of the American Historical Association, the Medieval Academy of America, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Society for Reformation Research. He also was a member of the board of trustees at Roxbury Latin School from 1973 to 1977. He remained a member of the Teamster’s union, which he had joined as an undergraduate working to pay college tuition. In 1978, Augsburg College named him as one of its most distinguished graduates.
He is survived by his wife, Katharine Johnson Watson (Director of the Museum of Art Emerita), whom he married in 1983; three daughters, Katharine E. Nyhus of Manhattan Beach, CA, Karen I. Nyhus of San Francisco, CA; Kristina V. Rotach of Columbus, Ohio; two grandchildren; his stepmother, Bernice Nyhus of Cumberland, WI; his brother, Edward Nyhus of Minneapolis, MN; and by his former wife and the mother of his daughters, Ellen Crocker of Bethel.