Congratulations, Dr. Jennifer McKay!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

"Stalin's Last Comrade: Hanna Wolf and the 'Karl Marx' Party College in the German Democratic Republic," is the title of Dr. Jennifer McKay's dissertation, successfully defended at the University of Waterloo on October 31, 2023.

Jennifer's committee included members from across the Tri-U. Dr. Gary Bruce of the University of Waterloo was her supervisor. Dr. Alan McDougall, University of Guelph, and Dr. Eva Plach, Wilfrid Laurier University were the other committee members. The external examiner was Dr. Hilary Earl of Nipissing University and the external/internal examiner was Dr. Grit Liebscher from the Germanic and Slavic Studies department at Waterloo.

Dr. McKay’s research focused on the leadership of Hanna Wolf, a fervent Stalinist, who served as Director of East Germany’s Parteihochschule Karl Marx for thirty-three years. It explores how Wolf successfully navigated the male dominated party culture of the East German Socialist Unity Party (SED) in order to oversee the training of close to 25,000 party functionaries that were well versed in Marxism-Leninism but had very few other professional skills. Known for ruling over the school with an “iron fist,” Wolf resisted curriculum changes despite internal and external opposition, securing her authority as the longtime Director until her retirement in 1983.  

Jennifer’s research fills a gap in the meagre scholarship focusing on high-ranking women in the SED. She is now working on publishing an article and turning her dissertation into a book.  

Completing my PhD through the Tri-U program was an incredibly rewarding experience. The network of faculty across three different campuses is a tremendous benefit of the program. I am especially grateful for the support of my supervisory committee, the University of Waterloo History Department, and the Waterloo Centre for German Studies.

Dr. Jennifer McKay

Jennifer McKay