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Campus News / News

Retiree Profile – David Sytsma, Ph.D.

08/03/2017 3:34 pm

David Sytsma, Ph.D.

Harry Truman is credited with saying, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” For the last 32 years, Dr. David Sytsma made sure that his students continued to expand their knowledge based on thorough studies of the past.

When David Sytsma first came to Rockford College in 1985, he was also finishing his doctoral studies from Northern Illinois University, where he had earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees. His areas of concentration were in modern European history, particularly German, Russian and British history. His primary interests are in the history of ideas, which is reflected in his undergraduate philosophy major and graduate work in that field.

A small university and a small department demands a generalist, and Dr. Sytsma has taught almosttwenty different courses at Rockford University including all four sections of the Western Civilization sequence and upper level courses in British, French, Russian, German and Japanese history.

This diversity of his background helps, he believes, to tie things together in ways that make sense for students, re-enforcing that history is neither stagnant nor dull. Nor is it based on memorization, but instead on interpretation and analysis. Students have historically responded in-kind to Dr. Sytsma’s informative style where he stressed that understanding history involves integrating ideas and narrative, as well as a consideration of the influence of individuals and social forces.

Beyond the classroom, Dr. Sytsma chaired the Academic Standards Committee and the Curriculum Committee and served on a wide range of other faculty committees. He organized the Rockford University chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honors society, and served as the department chair from 1998- 2010.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Sytsma worked for many years in book selling, is an excellent photographer and loves to read across a broad range of subjects and genres. He has traveled extensively, especially in Europe. He is married to a philosopher and has three daughters—an art historian, an M.D., and an artist. During the University’s 2017 Commencement ceremony, Dr. David Sytsma was conferred with the official designation of Professor Emeritus of History in recognition of his 32 years of meritorious service. The University wishes Dr. Sytsma the very best in his retirement.