Dr. Diane E. Wenger: professor, chair of Global Cultures

Retiring professors look back at academic careers

Dr. Diane Wenger has announced her retirement at the conclusion of the spring semester after working at Wilkes University for 16 years. She has been the department chair of the Division of Global Cultures for the past five years.

Wenger received a B.A. in English from Lebanon Valley College, an M.A. in American Studies from Penn State Harrisburg and a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Delaware. She also received the Outstanding Faculty Award of Merit in 2005 and the Outstanding Advisor Award in 2008.

She originally went to college at the traditional age but then withdrew to go to work. She later went back to college when her middle son was enrolled.

Her primary focus in history is early America and Pennsylvania German culture, but she is also interested in material culture.

“The more I taught, the more I realized I was really interested in the history of minorities and people that really didn’t have a voice in history. Women, African Americans, Native Americans,” said Wenger.

She said that since there are only two American history professors, she has to cover a lot of ground and has great freedom to pick what she gets to teach and how she shapes her courses.

“Well, number one, in American history there aren’t many jobs. But the position attracted me because it’s a small school of personal attention on students, and it was very similar to Lebanon Valley,” she explained. “It seemed like a good fit for me. However, my first inclination was that it’s a bit further away than I thought I wanted to be, and I didn’t want to move for a multitude of reasons.”

Wenger commutes to Wilkes from an early 1800s log house in Shaefferstown. On Mondays and Fridays, she works from home.

“I tried it and it worked out okay. I enjoyed the job enough that I didn’t mind driving 90 miles to work,” she said.

Due to the commute, she uses Desire2Learn as a way to assist in assigning material from class.

“I make it really obvious in my syllabi. That’s why every student knows I live a million miles away,” she said.

After retiring, she plans to head to St. Augustine with family in June. Beyond that, she has several projects she wants to finish that have been deferred because of academia. Wenger enjoys antique collecting and gardening and is looking forward to returning to them after retirement. 

She also has eclectic music tastes. She likes bluegrass, classic rock, country and classical music. Artists she enjoys include Bob Seger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

“I have really enjoyed working with the students and faculty here. Wilkes has been a good place to be and I am very confident I am leaving the department and division in excellent hands,” Wenger said.