Professor Profile

Dr. Jeffrey Hass

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Professor Profile

Dr. Jeffrey Hass

History professor teaching in Gaming, Austria, talks about his career.

Winter 2024 | Maura Roan McKeegan

In This Article

Dr. Jeff Hass ’90 remembers the exact moment history became real to him. He was in fifth grade, looking at a history book, when an old photograph of a group of miners caught his attention. Some of the miners were his age.

“It just clicked in my head that, wow, if I had been born a hundred years earlier, I wouldn’t be in school right now. I might be working in a mine,” he explains. “It fascinated me.”

After that, Jeff devoured his school library’s large collection of history books: “I read the room,” he says.

History seemed to be in his blood; his family tree had history teachers going back several generations, and he was born in the historically significant town of Berlin, Germany, before growing up in Michigan.

Arriving on campus as a freshman at Franciscan University, Jeff knew he would take history classes “for fun,” but his goal was to be a doctor, to make a difference in people’s lives through medicine. So, he majored in biology, and minored in history.

By senior year, he had figured out that medical school wasn’t his calling. And through the influence of his professors—especially Dr. John Carrigg and Dr. Winifred Dickinson—he realized that teachers could make just as much of a difference in people’s lives as doctors. He decided to pursue his history minor, rather than his biology major, in graduate school.

After earning a master’s degree from the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies in Ontario, and then a second master’s and a PhD in medieval history from the University of Leeds in England (where he also coached basketball), Hass joined the faculty of Ave Maria University. His first day as a history professor was September 11, 2001.

This, too, would be a day imprinted in his memory. A day when the link between history books and life became even more real.

In 2014, Hass accepted a faculty position with his alma mater and moved from Florida to Gaming, Austria, where he has been teaching history for Franciscan’s Study Abroad Program ever since.

While he loves his subject matter, Hass considers his students the most inspiring part of his profession.

“The highlight, to me, of being a teacher, is getting to know the students,” he says.

To that end, once a week since 2015, he and his wife, Natalia—whom he met at an Advent market in Gaming “over gluhwein out in the courtyard” and married in 2019—have been opening their home to students.

“It’s just a time to share life with them, talk to them, get to know them better,” he explains. “It’s been a great blessing and great fun as well.”

In the classroom, Hass’ mission is to help students thrive.

“If I have a student who doesn’t like history, or who is nervous about it because they’ve had bad experiences, take my class and enjoy it, come alive, and do well,” he says. “It’ s the most rewarding thing in the world.”

Maura Roan McKeegan writes from Wintersville, Ohio

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