January 3, 2017
In the fall of 1973, religion professor Johan Stohl, in his seventh of what would become 28 impactful years on the Albion College faculty, served as advisor for a new course created by a group of students (and eventually approved by the administration).
Stohl, who often intersected his expertise in the classroom with interests in literature and psychology, was an ideal role model for the unique undertaking. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, he also earned an A.B. in philosophy from Oberlin College and an M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School before working in parish ministry for a time. He later received his Ph.D. in religion and imaginative literature from the University of Chicago.
Below, the professor emeritus shares his recollections of the one-semester experiment at 1213 E. Erie St. (The students remember their experience in "The Housemates of 1213," on pages 34-39 of the Fall-Winter 2016-17 edition of Io Triumphe! magazine.)
Over 40 years ago I was asked by a group of 10 Albion students to "sponsor" a living-learning experiment, and to teach a student-designed academic course for college credit. I agreed, and the course took shape as Religious Studies 381: Values and Value Theory. The course was partly inspired by Albion's Basic Ideas, a first-year seminar program that was based on the Socratic maxim "Know thyself." Several of these 10 students had taken that course in their freshman year.
We designed Values and Value Theory as a student-led class that would bring together theory and practice within an intentional living-learning situation. Because everyone in the class lived in the same co-op house, discussions could and would continue long after class sessions.
After 40 years these wonderful, no-longer-so-young Albion graduates continue to stay in touch, often getting together at least once a year. Now, as Albion College launches its new living-learning venture at Munger Place, I hope it, too, will be grounded in a sustaining, values-oriented lifestyle.
Stohl's interest in community was evident in Albion, where he spearheaded a $600,000 renovation of the historic Ismon House on Clinton Street and co-founded the Albion Academy of Lifelong Learning, both of which remain active and important community institutions.
In 2006, Stohl was one of five finalists chosen for Governor Jennifer Granholm's Service Award for Outstanding Senior Volunteer. He was recognized by the Greater Albion Chamber of Commerce as a Festival of the Forks Honoree in 2005; two years earlier he was noted for his service to the Albion Volunteer Service Organization, for which Stohl wrote a grant in the late 1990s that proved to be responsible for the organization's survival.
In 2014, Stohl published a collection of poems under the title Strands of Time. He and his wife, Donna, currently live in Chelsea, Michigan.