Paul W. Wehr, retired professor of history, passed away on March 19. Wehr was a part of the UCF History Department from its inception through 1995, making a remarkable impact on UCF and surrounding communities. As we mourn his passing, we also reflect on Wehr’s unforgettable sense of humor and passion for history.
Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Wehr originally did not see himself as a college student. As he confessed in a 2016 interview with Orlando Memory, “I didn’t plan to go to college simply because everybody I knew that went to college wore glasses. And I thought this was foolishness to go to school and have to wear glasses.”
Despite his initial reservations, Wehr earned his bachelor’s degree from Manchester University, master’s degree from Miami University and Ph.D. from Ball State University. After teaching history at Ohio State, Wehr heard about the development of Florida Technological University, which later became UCF.
“It hadn’t opened yet,” said Wehr. “And so I thought this would be great. I could come down and grow up with the university.” Wehr went on to become an integral part of the UCF History Department for 25 years, inspiring students and faculty alike. He was particularly passionate about teaching students something new and inspiring them to change their opinions. When asked why he retired, Wehr wryly admitted, “The students were getting smarter than I was. You can’t allow that.”
During his time in Central Florida, Wehr also became involved in local history. He was responsible for writing the Pine Castle Historical Society’s publications, “Dateline: Pine Castle” and “Mosquito to Orange, the Making of a County.”
Most notably, Wehr became involved in recording the history of Slavia, a small town near Oviedo founded by Slovakian immigrants in 1911. Interviewing direct descendants of the original settlers, Wehr learn about their families’ experiences and was allowed to see their photo collections. The culmination of his research was his book, “Like Mustard Seed: The Slavia Settlement.” St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, a central part of Slavia, was granted all rights to the work.
In lieu of flowers, Wehr’s family has requested donations be made to the St. Luke’s Lutheran Church Library Fund.