He whetted his appetite for history when he was a child in Bangor, when would check out books at the UW-L library, strike up conversations with college students and ask local World War II veterans about their war experiences. He was particularly interested in what they witnessed in concentration campus, which fueled his fervor for Holocaust history, a topic he has researched for more than four decades.
“I thought, ‘How could this mass murder happen?’ ‘Why were innocent children and pregnant mothers sent to gas chambers?’” he recalled during an interview for a 2012 article in the Lantern, the UW-L’s Alumni Association magazine. “To this day, I still can’t fully answer the question of why, yet we must try our best to grasp it because we still deal with genocide today.”
He never became bored with his career because studying history requires probing questions about what it means to be human and the relationship between the individual and the state and the confounding continuation of genocides and mass murder in the world.
“I have to think like a student and be hungry for knowledge,” he said during the Lantern interview.
That hunger also propelled him to join the Peace Corps, where fewer than 7 percent of the volunteers are older than 50. As of 2014, the average volunteer age was 28, according to the corps.
“I don’t have all the answers. It’s the questions that should drive good teaching,” Wegner said. “At heart, I’m a student before I’m a teacher.”