Dr. Larry Toll: History professor and civil war enthusiast
February 21, 2012
When Dr. Larry Toll is not in an Evangel University classroom teaching history, he is out in the community living it. In the summer months you might find him working as a national park ranger at nearby Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, participating in a Civil War reenactment, doing a live demonstration of historic weapons, or leading tours at living history encampments around the region. Students in his Living History class have the opportunity to join him. They have portrayed soldiers at Fort Gibson, officers’ wives and laundresses at Fort Scott National Historic Site, and Civil War soldiers at Wilson’s Creek. Several of his students have received jobs as national park rangers through his contacts.
Dr. Toll is also active as a Discovery Ranger Commander with the Royal Rangers at his church, Park Crest Assembly of God, and the Frontiersmen Camping Fellowship, a ministry in Rangers that utilizes living history for older boys and commanders. In addition to living history (reenacting), his hobbies include camping, hunting, fishing and target shooting. He and his wife, Mary, have two children, Zachary and Daniel.
What sparked your interest in history, and how did you get interested in Civil War reenacting?
I became interested in history when I was a kid in grade school. At that time in the 60s there were several movies and TV programs which were set in the past. My interest in the Civil War was sparked when I read a novel in grade school entitled The Guns of Bull Run. My parents would take me to Civil War battlefields on vacations, and that intensified my interest. I attended a reenactment in high school and became involved in that hobby while I was a college student. That was 30 years ago, and I am still active.
What brought you to Evangel?
I was recruited in 2006 by Dr. Lew Hall, but I felt the Lord leading me here as early as 1999 when my wife and I came to Springfield for a Chi Alpha conference. At the time I was the faculty leader of a Chi Alpha chapter at Brewton-Parker College in Georgia, where I taught history. We visited Evangel while I was in town, and I felt the Lord leading me here. I placed my resume on the Assemblies of God website for higher education in 2006 and was contacted when a history position opened.
What sets an Evangel history education apart from a history education at another college?
Having taught in both secular and Christian universities, I see a degree in history at Evangel as unique. Too often larger state institutions tend to specialize in narrow fields of history, but at Evangel we offer students a broader approach to the study of history. We focus on giving students a good command of the breadth of history upon with they can build if they go on to graduate school, or that can prove a good foundation of knowledge if they become teachers.
Additionally, with our contacts with professionals in the field of public history we can offer students hands-on experiences that can lead to career opportunities after graduation. In my department we emphasize the training of what we call “World Changers.” These are students whom God calls into career fields as a ministry.
Some of our graduates are serving God in the field of education, acting as godly role models for children in the public schools; others may work in government positions at the local, state and national level. Some world for the U.S. state Department overseas, some in the military, others for the FBI. And some work in the field of public history for government agencies such as the National Park Service, while others enter into the ministry, even working at the national level of our denomination. Regardless of the fields in which they serve, all are acting as world changers where God has called them. This is what makes an Evangel education different.
What advice do you have for prospective students, especially those interested in a degree in history?
I would suggest that any students wanting to study history first determine what their career goals are. While many schools may offer a major in history, not all give students opportunities to explore potential careers in their major while they are working on their degrees. They should also examine their personal values to see if those values would best fit within the context of Christian higher education or secular-based higher education. History students at Evangel are encouraged in the development of their faith, rather than having it deconstructed in the classroom.
Finally, any student considering attending college should do a thorough job of researching the school that they are considering, and the major they may pursue. That would also include finding out as much as possible about the faculty at the school they are considering. Some colleges may have the leading scholars in their fields, but they may not provide their students with the contacts and field experiences that can lead to rewarding fields to which God may call them. At Evangel our faculty are godly men and women who mentor our students to become the world changers God has called them to be.