“The study of history is important. The better we understand the past, the better we understand the present – and the less likely we are to make mistakes in the future.”
Tom Renna is very clear on his passion, or more precisely, his passions. It is his teaching of medieval history AND, it is his scholarly research. He does not value one more than the other. He sees both as defining who he is, and appreciates the way the University has always – since his arrival in 1970 – supported these two sides of his work as a historian.
Much of Tom’s research is about political theory and medieval spirituality, in a historical context. He usually publishes and presents 3-4 articles a year, which is quite demanding for one who also teaches. Yet, it is his over-committing that pushes Tom to succeed. And succeed he does. Tom was the only American to present a paper (in Italian) at a conference in Tolentino, Italy in October, 2004. That presentation followed ones in Philadelphia and the Netherlands. Since 1972, Tom has published more than 95 scholarly articles, written or translated four books and given more than 130 scholarly presentations throughout the U.S. and the world, including Italy, England, Canada and Israel.
When Tom isn’t teaching on the SVSU campus or translating Latin manuscripts into English or reading a foreign newspaper (Tom reads four languages), you might find him working with students in Macerata, Italy. SVSU belongs to a consortium of 23 universities which compete to determine which school sends a professor to a site; Tom has taught at Macerta in 1996 and 2004. Other times when he is in Italy, Tom is engaged in research at the Vatican, where he has a pass that gives him access to secret archives. On a less esoteric note, you might find Tom speaking to a Rotary Club or even giving an occasional Sunday sermon at Calvary Episcopal Church in Saginaw.
The man who started the SVSU Honors Program and History Club has see much of the world and is comfortable wherever he is; yet it is one of his greatest academic comforts to call SVSU “home.”