Search within:

Between the Wars

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

Whitehouse returns to the faculty in 1919-20, and two new faculty appear in French: Stearns is replaced by Giovanni Terzano, A.M., Professor of French and Spanish, and Armando T. Bissiri, A.B., J.D. (the record is not clear whether the latter gentleman actually taught); and Miss Helen Barbary Hockenberry, A.B., Instructor in French. German is still missing from the curriculum, but the 1919-20 catalogue promises (not without a nod to the political correctness of the time) that "during the year 1920-21 the Department of German will be revived. An American [emphasis added] will be placed at the head of the department" (p. 80). True to the university's word, the 1920-21 catalogue states that "the department has been revived at Ohio University to meet the demand in various fields of education and scientific investigation," although the initial offerings are limited: Beginning, Intermediate, Reading for Science Students, and Advanced (apparently independent/arranged). 8 Interestingly, the first post-war instructor is Victor D. Hill, A.B., Instructor of Greek and German (p. 77), that is, we have come full circle from the appointment of Charles Super in 1879 in Classics and German. Happily, the future soon looks brighter for German Studies. In 1921-22 W. Loring Hall, A.M. (who also comes from the Classics Department), is hired as an Assistant Professor of German and is offering a full four-year program. The following year Hall is replaced by Associate Professor Maude C. Matthews, the former Maude Cryder, who has returned from graduate school.

Meanwhile, in Romance Languages, Professor of French Gerald Thomas Wilkinson has begun teaching Italian (1921-22), and by 1923-24 French, Spanish and Italian are included in the newly named "Romance Languages and Literature" department. During the next several years, a number of new Romance Language faculty arrive for varying lengths of time; and in 1928-29 a course in "Spanish-American Literature" is offered for the first time. This is part of a curriculum expansion that has been under way in all languages for several years. Of note in German is the arrival in 1927-28 of John Hess, who often serves as chair until his retirement in 1955.

During the 1930s, there are a number of interesting personnel and curriculum developments. Bertram Renkenberger, a recent graduate of Ohio University, is listed as an Assistant in Modern Languages (1930). Bert, as he was affectionately known, went on to more than 40 years of teaching and frequent service as chair, first of Romance Languages and then of the new Department of Modern Languages, before retiring in 1972. Mary T. Noss, another of the long-time language faculty (1914-1956), has a new degree, Docteur d'Université; Romance Philology is listed as a distinct sub-program for the first time; Italian begins offering advanced courses and is recognized as a major (1932-33); the language pedagogy courses "Teaching of French/Spanish/German," which had been offered since 1919 (French), 1922 (Spanish) and 1929 (German), are now listed under a College of Education number, but are still taught by language faculty (1936). Eventually their successor courses will return to the department under the "Modern Languages" rubric. Paul Krauss, like Renkenberger and Noss destined to become a fixture in the department, is appointed as a Visiting Professor of German in 1936 and stays until his retirement in 1974. To Professor Krauss the department owes the 1958 chartering of Delta Phi Alpha, the German Honor Society.

8 In his Annual Report for 1920, President Ellis says that "it is my earnest wish to reestablish the Department of German at the beginning of the next college year” (p. 14).  However, none of the documents consulted include a reference to the cessation of the program or the release of the German faculty. German is simply not offered in 1918-20, and no German faculty are listed on the rolls. Some conclusions may be drawn from a letter from German professor Emil Doernenburg to President Ellis. The former is petitioning the trustees for his last month's salary because of the high cost of living in Washington, where he is residing following his resignation due to the "hysteric spirit against everything German sweeping now over the country" and Ellis' "demand" that the German Department be abolished. I could find no evidence of a response from Ellis. Nor are there any documents confirming that Ellis ever replied to two outside requests in 1918 for information about the effect of the war on the university curriculum, specifically whether German would continue to be offered.