Over the past few years, the Department of Germanic Studies has had the good fortune of being remembered with generosity by former students, faculty members, and friends. The gifts they have given the department have allowed us to support today’s undergraduate and graduate students and recognize their achievements. It has also enabled our support of high school teachers of German and their students. Thanks to yearly donations by William M. Goodwin and matching donations by the Lilly Foundation, we have been able to give scholarships to every student taking part in one of our Overseas Study programs (Graz, Berlin, Freiburg) to minimize their costs. This year, again thanks to Mr. Goodwin, we have granted our first Germanic Studies Scholarship to an incoming student who has Germanic Studies as her first major. Her name is Lia Bodine.
Letter from the Chair
Lia, who hails from Atlanta, Georgia, joined us as an incoming freshman this fall. She is a true German language enthusiast, which she couples with her second major in fine arts. Nina Morais, Lia’s G200 instructor, tells us that “If there is a blank space on a sheet of paper, test or book, Lia will draw on it, and the most amazing pictures will appear (from landscapes to a portrait of Michael Jackson, we have seen everything!). Lia takes great joy and pride in her family, and shares beautiful stories with her colleagues about them.” The picture below was taken at a brunch honoring her arrival on campus.
With the continued help of Mr. Goodwin, we hope to assist additional well-deserving students, like Lia, in their endeavors to study the German language, literature, and cultural history. In the tradition of our predecessors, we hope that the department becomes a place of comfort, refuge, and inspiration for all of our Germanic Studies students.
William Goodwin, Jeff Grove (who introduced himself to you in a previous issue of the newsletter), and Warren Haas all grew up in Indiana and came to the “big city” of Bloomington to study at Indiana University. They have all confessed to having been a bit overwhelmed by the campus, but soon found a home in the department, a refuge, a place they could come to and find Kaffee, Kuchen, and confidants. They have mentioned names of specific professors, and it is not surprising that Frank Banta (whose generosity to the department has allowed many of our more ambitious activities over the past few years) and Ferdinand Piedmont (who is remembered by an annual award given to a graduate student working in the field of drama and theater) have been mentioned often. None of today’s faculty members were here when these former students were in residence in the early 1960s and in the 1970s, but we all remember the professors whom they frequently mention. Listening to their stories renews my respect for these former colleagues and the departmental culture they fostered. As a department in the late 2010s, living in a very different social and administrative climate and thus facing very different challenges, we still aspire to be that kind of department, a place that students can call home within their larger Indiana University home away from home. Inspired by the past we hope to emulate their example.
Listening to the stories of these former students has also caused me to reflect on the professors who played an important role in my life as an undergraduate. I went to three institutions of higher learning (state university, junior college, private liberal arts college – the ‘60s were a restless time), and in each I encountered professors who, to use the accurate cliché, changed my life. William Robinson my freshman year at the University of Florida, whose freshman English course opened my eyes to the power of literature and also simply caused me to rethink who I was and what I was to become. Alberta Goodman at Miami Dade, who got me addicted to Anglo-American modernism and tolerated my nearly daily over-enthusiastic visits. Jim Carlson and Jerry Gill at Florida Presbyterian College. Carlson allowed me the run of this amazing, technologically brilliant theater as I dreamed of becoming the next Judith Malina and Julian Beck, only to be brought back to reality by Gill, who walked me through Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and listened with well-crafted interest to my gibberish. To my shame, I never thanked them when I had the chance, and only one is still within my reach. I name them all here as a belated tribute.
The American university now is far, far different from the university Goodwin, Grove, Haas, and I attended. Older ideas of what a liberal arts education meant prevailed then, even if we also challenged them, especially in the proverbial 1960s. We – or maybe it was just I – took the “meaning of life” seriously and could not have cared less about “professional training.” After graduation it took me twenty years to settle on a profession – this one – and a better twenty years one could not have had. Unless it was the thirty years that followed.
I retire from being chair and from being a professor at Indiana University at the end of this academic year. I was extraordinarily and undeservedly lucky to have been hired by this outstanding Germanic Studies department, where I have enjoyed a charmed and satisfying career as teacher, researcher, and administrator. I especially savor having known the students who have studied here and who in their various ways have left something of themselves with us and taken something of us with them. I hope the next twenty years or so (optimistically speaking) will be a suitable closing chapter.
Es war das Schönste,
Es war das Schönste,
Es war das Schönste,
Auf der Welt.