It is with deep sorrow that we mark the loss of Dr. Wolfgang Natter, who was serving as Vice President for Academic Affairs at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota and passed away on April 29, 2018. He came to the College as an experienced administrator, having served as the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at St. Bonaventure in Olean NY and as Vice President of Academic Affairs at Chestnut Hill College in Pennsylvania. On his arrival at the College of St. Scholastica in June of 2017, Dr. Natter embraced his new responsibilities with genuine curiosity and palpable excitement and energy, bringing his deep resources of knowledge and experience to the College’s intensive strategic planning process. He was an engaged and attentive listener, a quality particularly admired in the Benedictine intellectual tradition. The College community found in Dr. Natter an inspiring academic leader, a thoughtful and considerate colleague and friend, and a visionary strategic planner.
Dr. Natter’s innovative and visionary qualities as an administrator in his later career were built on a lifetime of multidisciplinary research and teaching. He earned tenure and promotion in three disparate disciplines—German Studies, Geography and Political Science—and championed interdisciplinary programs as a faculty member, intellectual leader, and administrator. Initially trained as a Germanist, with a Ph.D. in German Studies from The Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Natter published his book Literature at War: Representing ‘the Time of Greatness’ in Germany, 1914–1940 with Yale University Press in 1999. A meticulous, rigorous and perceptive scholar, Dr. Natter was the coeditor of several volumes and the author of numerous articles in both English and German on social and cultural theory; political geography; space, identity and representation; and war and cultural memory. He held a deep interest in Friedrich Ratzel and German geopolitics. He fostered interdisciplinary and collaboration in numerous academic appointments abroad, including the Alexander von Humboldt Guest Lectureship in Human Geography at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands; at Leipzig University as a Fulbright Senior Scholar and later as a Leibniz Professor; and as a Senior Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. In addition to his array of research interests, Dr. Natter was an outstanding teacher and mentor who won several awards for distinguished teaching.
Throughout his career, Dr. Natter succeeded in designing and launching forward-thinking programs at the interstices of the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. At the University of Kentucky, he was cofounder and executive director of the graduate and research program in Social Theory. The program grew from a brown bag lecture and discussion series into the highly respected International Social Theory Consortium, which supported the development of scholarship and programs in social theory, political and social thought and cultural studies across five continents. At Virginia Tech, he likewise founded and directed an interdisciplinary program, the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought (ASPECT), which the Virginia State Council of Higher Education singled out as a bellwether for higher education. In conjunction with colleagues at Chestnut Hill, Dr. Natter developed a new curriculum for European Union Studies there based on scholarly and curricular collaboration with European partner institutions. Most recently, Dr. Natter had served at his alma mater as Administrative Fellow at Wesleyan University’s Center for Pedagogical Innovation, where he advocated for faculty career development, instructional technology, and grant development in support of teaching and learning.
Wolfgang Natter was a servant-scholar who led by example and had a profound and lasting impact on the lives of faculty and students he mentored and taught at each institution and position to which he was appointed. Although his time in the St. Scholastica community was all too brief, he left a guiding footprint in the College’s strategic plan. Dr. Natter’s keen intellect, his genuine kindness and empathy, his support for his colleagues, and his untiring devotion to the success of the College and its mission are greatly missed.