A passionate intellectual finds himself at home.
Even after 23 years of teaching at Willamette, American Studies Professor Michael Strelow has no plans to retire - although he does have an exit strategy.
"They are going to have to force me out, and I will go with my boots on," Strelow says with a smile. "Teaching is the thing I do. It's the one thing that does not seem like work."
In fact, when asked how often he finds himself working, Strelow has difficulty answering. "Either I am working all the time, or hardly at all," he says. "That, I think, is a distinction everyone should have blurred."
Strelow came to Willamette after two years at the University of Oregon, where he taught American Literature. He says he feels fortunate to be in the midst of so many gifted students at Willamette. "I consider myself lucky," he says.
Strelow enjoys teaching here so much that few things can keep him away from campus. Even the terrible floods of 1996 couldn't stop him from making it to work on time. "I found the raging rivers between Willamette and me," he recalls. "So I hitched a ride on a four-wheeler to get across the water to campus, only to find classes canceled. Instead, students were rallying to sandbag the campus."
It's that sense of community Strelow loves so much.
"Students are immediately encouraged by the Willamette culture to do well," he says. "You should be able to do something here that you can't do at other places." Empowering students to explore their interests is important to Strelow, a past Fulbright scholar and a lover of knowledge and opportunity.
Aside from the classroom, the Hatfield Library is his favorite destination. "I love what it stands for," Strelow says. "I love the availability of knowledge. Classes are extended through it."
His love for learning seems to be shared by his students, resulting in bonds that have withstood the test of time. Ten, even 15 years after being their instructor, Strelow still hears from former students and has forged a number of close friendships with them.
Strelow has found that the community bonds at Willamette are as strong as his students' intellectual convictions. As a result, he has found a home here - in a cozy office that he has no plans to leave anytime soon.