Professor’s tattoo reminds her to stay optimistic

For those of you who have been lucky enough to be taught by her or have just seen her bubbly self around campus, you will have noticed a fairly large, unusual tattoo on the right arm of Dr. Jennifer Veninga.

This tattoo is an image of a 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian, Søren Kierkegaard. The tattoo image itself is a replica of a drawing by a contemporary of his from memory, about 15 years after his death.

Dr. Veninga, a religious studies and theological studies professor, got the tattoo in 2012 at Shaman Tattoo, close to campus. To Veninga, the tattoo has a lot of meaning and representation, and is not just a spontaneous decision that she has come to regret.

“I fell in love with Kierkegaard when I studied abroad in Denmark while I was in college. I haven’t stopped loving or reading him since then,” Veninga said. “I got the tattoo in 2012 in anticipation of Kierkegaard’s 200th birthday in 2013, which I celebrated in Copenhagen last May.”

Above the tattoo of Kierkegaard is a Danish quote that reads “Naar man saaledes bliver ved at gaae, saa gaaer det nok,” which translates to “If you just keep walking, everything will be alright.” Kierkegaard is believed to have written those words to his beloved niece, who at the time was going through some difficulty in her life.

Veninga says that she was inspired by a woman she met who had a similar tattoo, but of the Protestant Reformer and theologian, John Calvin.

“I immediately was inspired to get one of my favorite theologian! I was moved by Kierkegaard’s words to his niece, and the idea of walking has been important to me for a long time,” Veninga said.

When teaching her classes, Veninga believes her tattoo is a great way to introduce students to Kierkegaard, the founder of Existentialism.

“They often wonder who in the world it is, but it is a great teaching moment,” Veninga said.

Accompanying the image of Kierkegaard on her right arm, Veninga also shared that she has a tiny tattoo of an infinity symbol, and is hoping that soon there will be more to come.