Over a decade ago, Lecturer on History Trygve V. R. Throntveit ’01, a St. Paul, Minn. native, arrived on Harvard’s campus for his undergraduate education. Young, eager, and motivated, Throntveit pursued a History and Literature degree. Soon, he was turning the heads of professors with his ideas on William James’s pragmatism and its effects on American politics, and won the Ralph Waldo Emerson prize in his junior year.
Of course, there must have been something beyond the Boston weather that inspired him to stick around, as he proceeded to stay at Harvard not only to earn his master’s and Ph.D. under Professor of American History James T. Kloppenberg, but also to teach others as a lecturer in the History department. It may look like fate in hindsight—both of his parents are teachers—but he was never certain that he would be following in their footsteps.
“I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a historian,” Throntveit says. “I thought I wanted to stay in school because I always liked it and then everything else just kind of happened.”
In spite of his initial uncertainty, there has been a high demand for Throntveit’s teaching. This year alone, he introduced two new courses to the history department, History 1452: “American Politics and Society, Reconstruction to the Present” and History 1461: “War and the World of Ideas in America, Civil War to Iraq.”
In one of his History 1452 lectures on the Vietnam War and the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency, Throntveit filled the board with detailed outlines from end to end. Though Throntveit breezed through the dense material effortlessly, he refrains from deeming himself an expert on the topic.
“Trygve combines intellectual ambition and personal modesty, a winning combination in and out of the classroom,” Kloppenberg says. “Those qualities have made him equally successful in our graduate program and as a lecturer in the History Department this year.”
His students, mentors, and peers would agree that one of Throntveit’s strengths is his innate ability to convey ideas, which uniquely enables him to speak about topics that may not even be in his area of expertise.
“He is a really great communicator,” says Adam Ewing, the head teaching fellow of History 1452. “He is able to explain very complicated political or intellectual ideas in very clear and digestible ways.”
This does not only apply in the lecture hall, but outside the classroom as well.
“He is also very approachable,” Ewing adds. “It encourages student participation and allows students to come up to him and seek his guidance. He’s been a great mentor.”
As a recent addition to Harvard’s faculty, Throntveit’s future as a professor has not been set, but according to Kloppenberg, he has been hired as the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies in History. Given his significant contributions to Harvard and his flexibility with plans, Throntveit is on a path to continue educating and guiding students for years to come.