Search within:

New Challenges, New Horizons

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

By the early nineties the faculty, which had remained basically unchanged since the mid-seventies, is slowly taking on a new shape. Retirements from the "sixties generation," increased enrollments, and the introduction of a more equitable teaching load for incoming faculty commensurate with the normal Arts & Sciences standard, are combining to create a need for more faculty. In 2003 the department consists of 23 full-time and 27 part-time faculty, plus 24 graduate teaching assistants. With an active research agenda, award-winning excellence in teaching and exciting curricular initiatives, the faculty is well qualified to help lead Ohio University into its third century.

Oh mon Dieu! Scandal?

Theophile Dambac, professor of French since 1916, is fired by the trustees for incompetence. At the trustees meeting of Sept. 10, 1918, the review committee reports to the President and Board of Trustees: "Your committee appointed at the June session to take testimony and report as to the legality of the suspension of Prof. Theophile Dambac, instructor in Romance Languages, beg leave to report that pursuant to ample notice to all parties, we held a meeting at the office of President Ellis in Athens, Ohio, on the 9th of day of September, 1918, at one o'clock P.M., and after examining a number of witnesses, including Prof. Dambac, and being fully advised in the premises, we do find that the suspension was fully justified, on the grounds of incompetency and want of ability to enlist and retain the interest of his students, whereby his classes were rapidly becoming disorganized and demoralized to the great detriment of the University. We therefore recommend that the action of President Ellis is [sic] permanently suspending Prof. Dambac be affirmed. But it appearing that President Ellis, in view of the short notice given Prof. Dambac of his suspension, offered to give him one month's salary, we further recommend that, without admitting any liability whatever, that said amount be paid him upon receipting in full all alleged claims against the university."

This view of Dambac contrasts starkly with his description as a new faculty member: "Professor Theophile Dambac comes from the University of Maine with strong recommendations from the President and Secretary of the University and from the Head of the German Department of that institution. He is a graduate of the University of Grenoble, France. He lived for several years in South America where he gained familiarity with the Spanish language. He takes the professorship of Romance languages held by Miss Mary T. Noss, A.B., who in June last was granted a year's leave of absence to allow her to take up advanced work at Columbia University" (Annual Report, 1916-17, p. 68).

Perhaps the glowing recommendations reflected Maine’s eagerness to be rid of him. It probably wasn’t the first time, and certainly not the last, that letters of reference would give an incomplete picture of an applicant. President Ellis, who did not hesitate to express his opinions forthrightly, suggests as much in a letter to the president of Maine University (Judson Aley) outlining the reasons for Dambac’s mid-year dismissal. Ellis offers Aley a not-so-subtle reproof with respect to puffery in recommendations: “I think you ought to be made conversant with these facts to the end that a little more care might be exercised in giving instructors a favorable recommendation when they were not entitled to such” (February 14, 1917).

Vive l'amour! | Why They Are Called ‘Romance’ Languages

Helen Barbary Hockenberry (great name!) taught French from 1920-22, then returned in 1925 as Helen B. Whitehouse, that is, the wife of Frank Whitehouse, professor of Spanish (1917-54). One can only speculate to what extent Ms. Hockenberry was influenced in her choice by a 1923 student evaluation of faculty that ranked Whitehouse second in “the best-dressed” category, while his French col- league Gerald Wilkinson ranked second as “the best-looking” (Athena, p. 373).