From a Farm Boy to the Outer Limits of a University Education — Meet Henry Troyer

Because of the publicity that I’ve received for both my memoir and the PBS American Experience film “The Amish” that I was featured in, I occasionally receive emails from people who have read or heard my story and want to let me know how they’ve related to it. Very often these people have an Amish or Mennonite background.

In September I got such an email from Henry Troyer. I thought his story was inspiring, and so I asked him if he would write a story for the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund blog.

Henry grew up in Holmes County, Ohio. His intellectual curiosity was bubbling up from within, so that even the long-standing traditions of the Amish were not enough to confine it. He pursued higher education with a voracious enthusiasm.

Henry Troyer left his Amish family in 1958 to do his I-W service in Cleveland, He went to Goshen College and graduated in 1965 with a B.A. in Biology. After that, he graduated from West Virginia University with a Ph.D. in Anatomy.  He taught anatomy at three American universities, two African universities and at a medical center in India. He is now writing a book on the connection between the Ohio Swiss Cheese Industry and the Holmes County Amish.  When that is finished, he hopes to publish his memoirs.  He and his wife (also former Amish) are both retired and live on a little farm near Springfield, Missouri. 

Here are two excerpts of his story: 

"During the four months of summer vacation, I longed for access to those books.  Yet, the schoolhouse was locked up all summer.  However, I learned that one of the windows could not be locked, and I could enter whenever I wanted to.  No one else seemed to know about the unlocked window, or perhaps they simply did not care. I did not often “break” into the schoolhouse during the summer to get to the books, but when I did, I tried to do so discretely so that no one else knew.  Yet, the word got around that I had a way of getting into the schoolhouse, and it earned me something of a reputation – in today’s lingo I would have been a nerd."

"Going to Goshen College upset my parents very much. My relations with them was so strained that I just didn't go home again.  That was a VERY difficult time.  During holidays, all the other students went home to their families, but I had no family to go to.  I was usually allowed to stay on campus, but it was so lonely.  I became very depressed during those times.  And there was nothing to do about it but just tough it out." Please visit the Amish Descendent Scholarship Fund blog for more of Henry Troyer's story. You will be glad you did.

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3 thoughts on “From a Farm Boy to the Outer Limits of a University Education — Meet Henry Troyer”

  1. The courage needed to take just the first step away from everything you’ve ever known is just unimaginable to me.
    What I can identify with, however, is the thirst for knowledge you and Henry both shared.
    Thanks for a great post!

    1. Hi Kristine. I updated this article’s link, and it generated a “new post” email to everyone. I wrote it a few years back.

      How cool… that you live close to Henry. I’ve never met him in person. Perhaps you will!

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