Inspiring Academic Leader Marlene Epp Retires

The Grebel community celebrated Professor Marlene Epp’s 27 years of service at the end of June. A Professor of History and Peace and Conflict Studies, Marlene has also served the College as Dean, Director of the Institute of Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies, and Editor of The Conrad Grebel Review.

Marlene is a Canadian historian with eclectic research and teaching interests in Mennonite studies, immigrants and refugees, women and gender, the history of peace and nonviolence, and the history of food and culture. She has had a distinguished career as scholar, teacher and administrator at Grebel. In addition to writing over 24 book chapters and 19 peer-reviewed articles, she has written four books and edited three others. Her scholarship has made notable contributions to the fields of oral history, women’s history, Mennonite history, and the history of food.

Throughout her career, Marlene has taught courses in Peace and Conflict Studies and History. She made a conscious effort to include elements of practical and experiential learning in her courses, incorporating interviews, public exhibits, potlucks, and guest speakers with lived experience. “She wanted us to engage with the material on a fundamental, personal, and critical level,” reflected a past student.

“Marlene is a superb teacher whose work bridges the classroom and community to the mutual enrichment of both,” explained colleague and former student Professor David Y. Neufeld. “She motivates students to share in her intrinsic fascination with the past, but always in service of history’s potential to inspire students to action in the present.”

During her career, Marlene supervised 14 MA students and a PhD student, and served as second reader on Master’s Research Papers, cognate essays, and theses for UWaterloo’s History Department and the Tri-University Graduate History program. She played a significant role in the academic and professional success of many students, and was described as “a mentor and colleague, rather than merely a supervisor.”

Leaving a lasting footprint on Grebel from an administrative standpoint, Marlene served as the College’s Academic Dean from 2002-2006, Acting Dean in 2010, and Dean from 2016-2019. Grebel Professor Emeritus Lowell Ewert noted that she “supported and mentored faculty to be the best they could be in the classroom.”

Likewise, Reina Neufeldt, Chair of PACS described Marlene as “an exceptional teacher and mentor,” and added that “Marlene’s style and the ways in which she created deep, critical, and respectful engagement on issues that people care about, transformed them in the process.”

Troy Osborne, current Dean at Grebel, explained that “Marlene was in a pivotal position between two generations of faculty and she gracefully carried the institutional memory of Grebel during an extended period of transition.”

Marlene led and actively participated in the Institute for Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies. She is a sought-after speaker and authority by community groups and the media for her expertise in Mennonites and Anabaptists. She cultivated links with different Mennonite groups in Waterloo Region, as well as the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, and refugees locally and in other parts of the world. Colleagues admire her just and creative relationship-building and her ability to open space for genuine dialogue.

Described by colleagues as an academic defender, forward-thinking, curious, compassionate, thoughtful, a valuable source of wisdom, and a visionary academic leader with inspiring integrity, Marlene will be greatly missed at Grebel. As a long-serving and highly respected scholar, teacher, and administrator, she has been awarded the title of Professor Emerita.

In her retirement, Marlene is pursing multiple ideas, hoping to work on fulfilling projects that are also useful to the world.