Le Fer Hall in the summer
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Reflecting on a Woods legend – Dr. Paul

Blog | 06.08.2020

By Nathan Stroup ’19

Nathan Stroup and Dr. Paul at homecoming
Nathan and Dr. Paul at Homecoming last fall, October 2019.

When asked to think of the legends and giants of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, many alums and friends alike will state the names of various monumental individuals that have had profound impacts upon our beloved Woods. Names such Guerin, Le Fer, Foley, Knoerle and Doherty are sure to top the list for their substantial and monumental changes that they have had on our alma mater. In addition to the names of these ardent past presidents of SMWC, many alums are drawn to recalling the names of various faculty members that went above and beyond to positively impact their life. When asking Woodsies of the past and present about what made a meaningful impact on their education, Dr. Paul Salstrom is sure to top that list.

I had the privilege of having Dr. Paul Salstrom as a professor, mentor and friend during the two years that I spent at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, and for his kindness and affection I am forever grateful. I first met Dr. Paul, as Woodsies of the past 15, or so, years so affectionally call him, within the first few weeks of me transferring to SMWC. Dr. Paul went out of his way to introduce himself and welcome me to The Woods, which started a friendship that still holds strong to this day. One of the first things I noticed about Dr. Paul was his open door office policy, which resulted in me, and countless other Woodsies, spending hours within his office talking about not only our class curriculum, and issues facing our country and world, but whatever personal situations we might be dealing with.

During my time at The Woods, it was not uncommon for me to have the pleasure of joining him for his usual lunch or dinner in O’Shaughnessy Dining Hall – something that I truly regret not doing more often.

I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Paul for three classes, as well as having him serve as an advisor to the Peace and Justice Committee, a campus organization in which I was involved. Within these roles, Dr. Paul has been able to continuously amaze his students with his superior intellect and stories from his unique personal and academic background, as well as his dedication to seeing them succeed both inside and out of the classroom.

While employed at The Woods, Dr. Paul has written more than 20 books and articles, many of which has been integrated into his course curriculum. Furthermore, he has been consulted for contributions for various books and articles written about Appalachian studies, causing him to develop a reputation as a modern expert on the region.

As such, Dr. Paul has made it a point to attend nearly every single home softball, basketball, women’s soccer and men’s soccer game while he has been employed at The Woods. As a result, Dr. Paul’s students are able to feel a strong connection with him that last long after their time studying at The Woods is over. Additionally, his willingness to write letters of recommendation for graduate and employment opportunities for his current and former students, further express his sincere desire to see them flourish once they leave The Woods.

Dr. Paul has made it a point to integrate a social justice and human rights component into every unit taught within his classes, which coincidentally is the first time many of his students learn about these various issues facing our world. As a result, Woods students are able to expand their comfort levels, and think critically about various ways to become a better steward of the earth. Dr. Paul has truly been able to follow the guidance of our beloved foundress Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, “[l]ove the children first, and then teach them.”

As I look over the numerous books, notes and emails we have exchanged over the years, as well as photos taken at my senior dinner, ring day, graduation and homecoming, I realize how truly blessed I am to know Dr. Paul. Dr. Paul is a dedicated servant to The Woods and fully devoted to her success. He is selfless and always puts the needs of his students above himself.

Through interactions with and guidance from him, I know that I am not only a better student, but a better Catholic as well. I am forever grateful for Dr. Paul.


Nathan Stroup is a 2019 alumnus who is currently pursuing a graduate degree at Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

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