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In the Beginning . . .

From The Department of Modern Languages: A Bicentennial History 1804-2004

From the founding of Ohio University in 1804 until about 1830, the formal study of languages meant Latin and Greek. Both languages were an integral part of the curriculum. The first recorded deviation from this standard occurred in April 1831, when the trustees permitted the entrance of students who sought training for teaching in the common schools but did not desire to learn the "dead languages" (Hoover, 64). The first mention of modern language study appears in the same year, when during the winter session 1830-31 some students were permit- ted to take French lessons "during their leisure hours." The Trustees Minutes state that "during the past term study of the French language was introduced for the first time. It was taught by Mr. Gauthiere, a Gentleman lately come from Paris" (Minutes, April 13, 1830, p. XII & p. 122). Gauthiere also taught during the summer session, but there is no further mention of him on the faculty rolls.

Although the trustees considered "the French language from its general diffusion throughout the civilized world as forming an essential part of modern education" (Hoover, 64), they also anticipated later periods of lukewarm support for modern languages by approving only $50 as salary and requiring an enrollment of 40 students (out of a total student body of 101): "plus ça change . . .!" 1

There are two intriguing entries in the faculty minutes of 1840 that bear on the question of language instruction. On Thursday, April 24, the faculty declared: "In exercise of the power vested in the faculty by the Board to that effect, the Faculty proceeded to arrange upon a new plan for the departments of Instruction. To each Professor was assigned the charge of his Department respectively throughout the whole course of Study. To the President was given that of Mental and Moral Philosophy. To Professor Andrews was assigned History, Geography, the Elements of English grammar and Rhetoric, with the French Language." At their next meeting on May 16, 1840, the faculty resolved "that the daily College Routine should be as follows: Faculty Meeting for French at 5 a.m." Based on the subsequent minutes of trustees meetings it appears that the board members were surprised by this initiative of the faculty, which seems to be the first time that the concept of a department head or chair is raised officially. The resolutions also provide some insight into why modern languages teachers are rarely mentioned during the early years, although French and German are being offered: apparently faculty in other disciplines (such as Professor Andrews in French, and later [1879] Classics professor Super in German) took on these duties.

In the "General Catalogue of Ohio University for the years 1804-1857" there are no professors of modern languages listed (p. 7). However, the catalogue for 1855-56 states that "throughout the College course there will be weekly recitations in the Greek testament by the College class. Instruction in Modern Languages or Hebrew will be given if desired" (p.13). A similar statement appears in subsequent Bulletins through 1872-73, although sometimes Hebrew stands alone. Only two modern language teachers are mentioned by name during this time. In the 1858 catalogue we find: "Fredric Dolmetsch, Teacher of French and German" (p. 5), although the course listings show no offerings in modern languages. In any case, Mr. Dolmetsch is not mentioned as a faculty member after 1858. In 1860-61 a Leo. Reinman is listed as Professor of German and French, but he also vanishes after one year. The statement about Hebrew and French/Modern Languages disappears with the 1873-74 catalogue, and German is offered; as an elective in the Junior Year. The catalogue states that "if German is elected it must be continued through the year" (p. 16). As usual, no foreign language teachers are listed.

William Henry Scott, who accepts the presidency in 1872, is intent on reviving the "Classical Course" [i.e., Curriculum], which included Latin and Greek, but during his tenure the "Scientific Course" is also revised to include "modern languages and courses in science sufficient to make it comparable in time and work to the classical course" (Hoover, 154).

There is no mention of a modern language faculty or which languages would be offered, but French and German are the only languages ever to appear in the curriculum to this point.

1 Trustees Minutes, April 13, 1830, p. 122: "During four months of last term some of our Students have daily devoted their leisure time to the Study of the French language under the tuition of Mr. Gauthiere, Gentleman from Paris, who is well qualified to teach that language"; and Minutes, Sept. 21, 1830, p. 136: "Mr. Gauthiere, our French teacher, has been with us through the summer, but has been enabled to do much less than was expected. The regular studies of those disposed to learn that language, were difficult and pressing: a few, however, have availed themselves of the Opportunity and made some progress in the language."