From Fort Wayne
via Cambridge to Athens
Ron Fritze was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1951. He developed an interest in history early in life and like many little boys that interest focused on the Civil War. He earned his BA at Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois in 1974. Majoring in history, he was encouraged by his professors, particularly his advisor Rudolph Heinze, to go to graduate school. Although initially interested in the medieval era, Rudi Heinze converted him to studying Tudor England.
From Concordia he went to LSU for a master's degree where he studied under Fred Youngs and wrote a thesis about dissolution of the monasteries and changes in landholding in the country of Hampshire. Graduating from LSU in 1976, he went to study with Sir Geoffrey Elton at Cambridge University and completed his PhD in 1981. His dissertation was concerned with the impact of politics and religion on the local governing elite in Hampshire under the Tudors. His experience as a student was extremely fortunate as his undergraduate, master's and doctoral advisors were all excellent scholars who took good care of their students.
In 1979 Ron returned to LSU to work as a research associate under Fred Youngs. Given the rather tight job market, he also entered the masters of library science program at LSU and earned his MSL in 1982. It was a good form of unemployment insurance but it also opened up a number of professional and scholarly opportunities that have aided him throughout his career.
He worked as a collection development and reference librarian at Rice University from 1982-1984. At that point he was fortunate to be hired for a tenure-track assistant professorship at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He spent 17 enjoyable years at Lamar and although he does not miss the humidity of the Texas Gulf coast, he misses the people and the good seafood. Getting an urge to try his hand at academic administration, he moved to the University of Central Arkansas in 2001 as chair of the history department.
In 2005 he was quite happy to move on and to take up being Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Athens State University in Athens, Alabama, and his plan is to keep working there until retirement. The Alabama Humanities Foundation picked him to be a speaker in its Roads Scholars programs for 2007 and 2008 and he is going around the state lecturing on "Prince Madoc and the Welsh Indians: A Persistent Frontier Myth in Alabama and Beyond."
From 1998-2002 he served as executive secretary of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC). He served a term on the executive council of the SCSC from 2004-2006. Currently he is the secretary for the SCSC Endowment Campaign and a member of the SCSC committee awarding the Bainton Book Prize for Reference Materials. Besides his membership in the SCSC, he also is a member of the Past and Present Society and the Society for the History of Discoveries.
He is currently writing a book about pseudohistorical ideas and popular culture that is tentatively titled, The Twilight Zone of History. It is a book that is both fun and depressing at the same time. Odd and relatively innocuous beliefs about lost continents and ancient alien visitors to earth mingle with more sinister Nazi myths about the history of the Aryans and the racist cosmogonies of Christian Identity and the Nation of Islam. He lives with his wife Twylia, five dogs (three of them rescued, he tries to avoid Petsmart these days), and a parrot. He enjoys cooking, growing tomatoes and zinnias, and reading mysteries. This last year he has started to see more of the world by going on cruises as a destination speaker. Abstracting is a great way to keep up with the literature of the religious history of early modern England and, like teaching, is a nice break from the demands of administration.