Renner, Louis L. 1926-

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Renner, Louis L. 1926-


Born April 25, 1926, in Bismarck, ND. Education: Studied at Sorbonne University; University of Munich, Ph.D. Religion: Catholic.


Office—Gonzaga University, 502 E. Boone Ave., AD Box 111, Spokane, WA 99258.


Educator and priest. Ordained Jesuit priest, 1957; Monroe Catholic High School, Fairbanks, AK, teacher, 1958-60; University of Alaska—Fairbanks, instructor, 1965-80, professor of German emeritus, 1980—; Gonzaga University Jesuit Community, Spokane, WA, writer-in-residence, 2002—.


Governor's Award for Friend of the Humanities, Government of Alaska, 2002.


Die Theorie Des Rechten in Der Philosophie, W. & I.M. Salzer (Munich, Germany), 1965.

(With Dorothy Jean Ray) Pioneer Missionary to the Bering Strait Eskimos: Bellarmine Lafortune, S.J., Binford & Mort (Portland, OR), 1979.

"Father Tom" of the Arctic, Binford & Mort (Portland, OR), 1985.

The KNOM/Father Jim Poole Story, Binford & Mort (Portland, OR), 1985.

Alaskana Catholica: A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska: A Reference Work in the Format of an Encyclopedia, Society of Jesus (Portland, OR), 2005.

Edited and wrote for Alaskan Shepherd.


Louis L. Renner was born in Bismarck, North Dakota, on April 25, 1926. He studied in Europe, at Paris's Sorbonne University, and eventually earned a Ph.D. at the University of Munich in Germany. In 1957 Renner became an ordained Jesuit priest. He began teaching at Monroe Catholic High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, the following year, remaining there for two years. In 1965 he began a fifteen-year career as an instructor at the University of Alaska—Fairbanks. He served as a professor of German emeritus for an additional twenty-two years after retiring from the university in 1980. In 2002 he accepted a position as writer-in-residence at Gonzaga University Jesuit Community in Spokane, WA.

In 2005 Renner published Alaskana Catholica: A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska: A Reference Work in the Format of an Encyclopedia through Portland, Oregon's Society of Jesus. The encyclopedia is a commissioned account of Catholicism in Alaska and Alaskan Catholics. The encyclopedia contains biographies of individuals who have made a significant impact on spreading, promoting, and fostering Catholicism in the Arctic state. Its focus ranges between 1779, when Spain attempted to colonize the land, and 2004. Renner documents not only the religious aspects of Alaska but also how Catholicism mixed with secularism. He also explains in depth the relation between missionaries and indigenous Alaskans. Bringing more than just religion, the missionaries were responsible for introducing new languages, a European understanding of the natural sciences and medicine, new technologies, Euro-American music, and photography. Conflict was abundant throughout Alaskan history, and Renner accounts for fighting between priests, indigenous peoples and missionaries, and even nuns and priests. The encyclopedia is arranged in chronological order and includes information about Alaskan towns, specific mission stations, and institutions of interest to the subject of the book, in addition to the human interaction within these places. Renner takes an anthropological approach to the impact Catholicism has had on the organizational and societal composition of indigenous peoples of the region, before, during, and after the introduction of the religion. In particular he gives a lengthy account on the Alaska Native Sisterhoods.

A contributor to Reference & Research Book News found the entries in the book to be "substantially cross-referenced." The same contributor noted that the book includes "many" photographs and commented that the index was quite "detailed." Anne M. Butler, writing in Alaska History, noted that the book transcends the format of a regular encyclopedia, saying that it is "an exceptional contribution to the genre." Butler noted that the text was "well indexed and cross referenced, promising a handy tool for scholar and non-academician alike." Butler described Renner as a "meticulous scholar," adding that his text is in "balance," and has "clarity, inclusiveness, grace, and warmth." Butler concluded by calling Alaskana Catholica the "crown jewel in the long career of Louis L. Renner, S.J., Alaska's most accomplished Catholic historian."



Alaska History, fall, 2006, Anne M. Butler, review of Alaskana Catholica: A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska: A Reference Work in the Format of an Encyclopedia, pp. 61-62.

Alaskan Shepherd, June-July, 2007, Patty Walter, "Priest in Alaska."

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May, 2006, R.A. Boisclair, review of Alaskana Catholica, p. 1572.

Journal of the West, summer, 2006, James M. Cook, review of Alaskana Catholica.

Pacific Northwest Quarterly, summer, 2006, James M. O'Toole, review of Alaskana Catholica.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2006, review of Alaskana Catholica.