Eastman, John, R
- United States
- BA – History, Virginia Polytechnic Institute;
- PhD-medieval history, Julius Maximiliaus-Univeristat yu Wurzbarg
- American Indian College Fund; Native American Aid; American Indian Relief Council
- American Indian Educational Foundation; Council of Indian Nations; US Holocaust Memorial Museum
John Eastman was born in San Diego’s Naval Hospital on 30 June 1945. At the time, his father was on a battleship traveling to the Philippines for repairs following a hit by Japanese Kamikaze planes. His mother was working in a clerk’s office in the city. After several months the family returned to the East coast, moving to a summer community off of a cove of South River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Though he enjoyed learning, Dr. Eastman recalls being extremely bored by his school’s prevailing teaching methodology, and relished looking out the windows to daydream. Not until junior high school did he become inspired in school. He impressed his English teacher with a paper on the life of Thomas Jefferson, and later became enthralled by Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. After this, Dr. Eastman was hooked on academia. He bookended his high school career by winning an honorary scholarship, the William John Bennett Memorial Scholarship for academic achievement and interest in wrestling.
Dr. Eastman attended college at Virginia Tech from 1963 to 1968, graduating with a B.A. in History and a minor in German. During this time he worked for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center, where he learned the basics of computers on a Fortran IV program, soldering circuit boards for transistors, and making measurements using an oscilloscope. He and his colleagues were working on the Orbiting Astronomical Telescope, the forerunner of the Hubble Telescope. However, his greater interest was in the humanities, especially world history, so he “attached himself” to a professor who worked in Latin American history. He later took up medieval studies in Germany, after a student group to Wuerzburg. After, Dr. Eastman took his first solo trip to Mexico to test his two years of Spanish language studies -- and to decide the future direction he should take. Ultimately, he decided that his ancestral ties to Germany were stronger; so after a year as a high school teacher in Business Arithmetic and tutoring in Algebra, Dr. Eastman moved to Germany in August 1969, and took a job in restoration with a company based in Munich. In the four years he held this position, Dr. Eastman restored artwork in churches, cathedrals, and ordinary churches. This was a great opportunity for him to study the rivalry between artists/sculptors and workers of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, as displayed in their work. When the office closed up suddenly, Dr. Eastman worked as a bilingual tour guide by day and taught English to foreign nationals by night, which prepared him for his later role as a substitute teacher upon his return to the States. He also edited historical texts as a research assistant.
Using his free time wisely, Dr. Eastman prepared for the language proficiency exam in German (which he passed) and in November 1971 began to attend lectures at the Julius Maximilians-University in Wuerzburg. There he made life-long friends and painstakingly learned Latin, which was a requirement for university studies and an essential element of his major in medieval studies. By 1985, he completed his dissertation and graduated with a Doctorate in Medieval European History with minors in Modern European History and Art History; interestingly, the New York office which evaluated Dr. Eastman’s German degree considered it the equivalent of a double Doctorate in History and Philosophy. His dissertation was published in 1990 and again in 1992 in two different books.
Upon his return to the United States in May of 1985, Dr. Eastman struggled to re-acclimate himslef to the American way of life, by his own admission. By 1987 he was substitute teaching in public schools and began attending as many academic conferences as possible. He published more than a dozen academic articles which, along with his books, won him a position teaching Latin and German in a Catholic high school in Virginia. After five years, Dr. Eastman began to work as adjunct faculty at two local universities in mid-level German and world history, before returning to teaching Latin, ethics, philosophy, and law at a private Catholic school in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Dr. Eastman continues to pursue his lifelong interest in foreign languages. He is currently brushing up on his Russian, which he admits is extremely challenging work (he also maintains reading knowledge of French, German, Spanish, Latin, Sanskrit and Italian). Dr. Eastman credits his success to the influence of a number of important people in his life. His mother, Theresa, provided him with many books and brought her young son to many of her Volksmarches; she also urged him to research the family history. His aunt and uncle, Loretta and Albert Scott, engaged him with lively discussions and books about the Civil War and world history. Veit Schmitt, an art student and co-worker in Nuremberg, inspired him to remain in Germany – to study and to live. His great-aunt Anna Neissendorfer (known to Dr. Eastman as Tante Nandl), provided him with a home away from home, where they celebrated Christmas together during his years abroad. Her stories about village life, the family, and her firsthand experiences of World Wars I and II intrigued and enlightened him. Friends Ernst and Traude Pagenstecher introduced Dr. Eastman to Buddhist meditation practices, which he discovered to be deeply enriching. Dr. Eastman lives by the belief that “What you leave in print as a scholar, whom you touch as a teacher -- not much else matters if you've done these things.”
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