How could a kid growing up with only an eighth-grade education and without electricity could ever become a globe-trotting professor? “I was an Amish boy,” said Wagler of his childhood near Partridge, Kansas. “I went to Partridge Elementary School until the eighth grade and then I worked on the farm.”
Harley Wagler , is he in Russia or American now? You tell me where he is, ok?
First, I found this blurb about Harley being in Russia….
Harley Wagler is the former director of the Russian Studies Program. His RSP
Team qualifications include a master’s degree and A.B.D. in his doctoral program in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Kansas. Wagler is fluent in Russian and has spent over 17 years living and teaching in Russia and Eastern Europe. Wagler has given advice to different political leaders throughout Russia and other former-Soviet countries. He regularly presents papers at the International Pushkin festival and he’s considered an expert on Pushkin by Russians and others. “Harley’s so culturally adept, even Russians sometimes forget he’s not a Russian.”
Then I found a sermon by him in Kansas, where I had gotten to know him years ago at KU: http://www.plainviewchurch.com/index.htm?http://www.plainviewchurch.com/sermons/others.htm&1
Oh, and here is an earlier sermon: http://www.plainviewchurch.com/index.htm?http://www.plainviewchurch.com/sermons/others.htm&1
Finally, I ran across this story from the HutchNews–but it is 2 years old.
Fresh vegetables, local meats and baked goods are the usual draw to the Reno County Farmer’s Market, but a shopper can come away with much more than ripe cantaloupes.
At a recent Wednesday market, Harley Wagler was helping his sister Ruth and her husband, Roman Miller, at their vegetable booth. He is spending the summer visiting family during a break from his teaching at the University of Nizhnii Novgorod in Russia. For Wagler, the city overlooking the Volga River has become home, but his roots remain in the Reno County soil where he was raised.
A group of kids from the Bluebird Books writing camp came upon Wagler, and his advice to these budding novelists was: Read Fyodor Dostoyevsky, beginning with “Crime and Punishment.”
While that suggestion came from Wagler, a Ph.D professor of comparative Russian/ American literature, it also was coming from the young boy who still lives inside the 72-year-old man.
Intrigued by the professor, I returned to the market on Saturday. Call me a stalker, but there he was, visiting with customers. We sat on the back of Miller’s produce truck and he explained how a kid growing up with only an eighth-grade education and without electricity could ever become a globe-trotting professor.
“I was an Amish boy,” said Wagler of his childhood near Partridge, Kansas. “I went to Partridge Elementary School until the eighth grade and then I worked on the farm.”
That might have been his entire world, had he not been inspired by the librarian who suggested he read “Crime and Punishment.” He began the book and couldn’t put it down. He took it with him to the harvest field. Whenever he had a few minutes he’d read several pages. It was lying on the straw when his uncle Willie Wagler came along and spotted the book. The title said it all to Uncle Willie, a preacher whose leanings were toward the chapters of the Bible.
“He told me, ‘Harley, why can’t you read something worthwhile?’ ”
Little did Uncle Willie realize how paramount that book would become in his nephew’s life, with its topic of exploring the meaning of human existence.
“Dostoyevsky is my favorite author,” Wagler said. “And he is a profoundly Christian author.”
From the ages of 14 through 21, Wagler worked on the family farm. And as he grew older he realized he wanted to leave the Amish order. He wanted to reflect more on the issues of the world and he joined the Mennonite Church. He enrolled in Hutchinson Community College, and from there he went to the University of Kansas, where he earned a master’s degree in English literature. There was another interval in his life when he went to Eastern Europe with the Mennonite mission board. He taught literature, but was searching for the Christian values in novels, poems and drama. In Yugoslavia in the 1970s his goal was to learn the Slovak languages, live among the people, attend their churches and be part of their community. His specialty was speaking both Serbian and Croatian.
He returned to KU and earned his Ph.D in Slovak literature. And by 1993 he arrived at the University of Nizhnii developing a Russian studies program for the Council of Christian Colleges. While the Russian exchange program no longer exists, Wagler remains on the faculty, teaching both comparative literature and philosophy courses.
His life in Russia has a rhythm that involves close friends, students and even the babushkas at the weekly farmers market in Nizhnii. They know him by name and wave him over when they have an herb or tea they know he likes.
Glancing around the Hutchinson market on Saturday, he noted the similarities of frugality and hard work which are present in both worlds. As the summer evolves, regular vendors know their customers. There is a sense of community at the market.
While he lives in a world of classic literature, he still holds dear the simple life.
“I really value what they are doing,” said Wagler of the farmers market. “Living in harmony with nature.”
Here are a few more of Harley’s sermons: