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Timothy Thibodeau

Quick Info

  • Position:

    Professor of History
  • Teaching Areas:

    Western Civilization, Medieval Europe, Renaissance and Reformation in Europe. and others
At a Glance
  • Translated the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, a famous medieval Christian text, from Latin
  • Taught at Nazareth for 25 years
  • Loves rock and blues, especially B.B. King and Eric Clapton
Timothy Thibodeau

He's translated ancient religious texts, debunked myths about the Shroud of Turin on the History Channel and written about the Beatles, but what inspires Naz professor Timothy Thibodeau most?

"It's the greatest privilege in my life to walk into a classroom and share my love of history," he says. "There's nothing I'd rather do than stand in a classroom and excite freshmen about what I do."

In his 25 years at Nazareth he's proven to thousands of students that a Western Civilization class taught at 8:30 on a Monday morning can actually be eye-opening. By incorporating today's headlines into the course, he makes the subject apply to modern life.

"My job is to take stuff that looks inherently boring and make it real. A lot of students tell me, 'I never knew history could be that fascinating.'"

Q & A with Dr. Thibodeau

How do you make your Western Civ class come alive?

"My goal is to show the link between what we study in the past with what's going on in the world at the moment. Our class discussions were really interesting this year. President Obama getting elected is historic, but the economic collapse provided the best discussion. Students would say 'My father lost his job.' Or 'My mother's working for the state, and she might lose her job.' That cut across all social classes."

So how did those headlines relate to history?

"I told my class that the Great Depression meant you lived with your parents. The New Depression means they're going to live with you - because they lost their retirement savings. That got everyone's attention."

How did you learn to be a good teacher - and why do you try to make your classes fun?

"The best teachers I had combined academic rigor with humor. There's enough tragedy in life - and there's a lot to cry about in world history - so we need something funny to laugh about."

You're a medieval specialist, a History Channel pundit, and a reformed rocker. Who knew you had so many facets?

"I tell my students that each individual faculty member is like a puzzle: you can look at your professor from the outside and think you understand, but you don't. It's the same for cultures, civilizations, and ethnic groups. They're all amazingly complex."

Your students might be surprised that you have a rock and roll background. What's the scoop?

"I played guitar in a band called Mad Jag. We played what today would be called classic rock. Our lead singer could sing like Linda Ronstadt, so we did a lot of her songs. We broke up when I went off to college."

Be honest: do you regret leaving the rocker lifestyle for history?

"I think I made the right move!"

How has Nazareth changed over the past 25 years?

"It's preserved a balance. It's grown in size, but kept the core community of faculty and students working closely together."

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