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The Rise of a Foreign Language Faculty

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

In 1879 Charles W. Super is appointed as Professor of Greek and German. This seems to be the first instance of a faculty member in the professorial rank being appointed to teach a modern language. Super is a potential one-man language department, since in addition to Latin, Greek and German, he knows French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew and Sanskrit (Hoover, 160). On the catalogue faculty rolls for 1879-1883, Super is generally listed as Professor of Greek and Instructor in German. By the time Super was appointed president of the university in 1884, modern language study seems to have been firmly established. As far back as 1873-74 German is listed as an elective in the two curricula (Catalogue, p. 16). For 1881-82 the classical and scientific curricula include German grammar and readings, and in 1883 the "Philosophical Curriculum" includes French and German (Catalogues).

The expanded language offerings coincide with the arrival of Miss Emily J. Wheeler, who serves as professor of modern languages and English from early 1884 until the fall of 1886, when she leaves for a higher salary at Alleghany College. 2

Wheeler is replaced by Magdalene A. Ebert of Wolfenbuettel, Germany, who because of her excellent work is appointed full-time instructor in June 1887. After Ebert leaves during the winter of 1888 due to illness, she is replaced temporarily by Miss Mary Townsend. In the fall of 1888 Miss Kate Cranz, just returned from study in Germany, is appointed to teach German and French (Hoover, 171).

In the same year (1888) John P. Gordy, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig in 1884, and after whom Gordy Hall, the present home of Modern Languages, is named, introduces a "Pedagogics Curriculum," which is intended to provide the student with a broad, well-rounded education. This course of study includes four years of modern language study, which at the time meant German or French (Hoover, 165-167).

By 1889 German is being offered in all the college curricula (Preparatory, Classical, and Philosophical), and in the Pedagogical curriculum at least one year of a "Foreign Language" is required (Catalogue).

This seems to be the first recorded instance of a modern language requirement at Ohio University. In the 1890-91 catalogue (pp. 21-22) we read that there are four degrees with varying language requirements:

  1. Bachelor of Arts: Latin and Greek: two years each;
  2. Bachelor of Philosophy: Latin, German, French: one year each;
  3. Bachelor of Pedagogics: Foreign Language: two years;
  4. Bachelor of Science: German, Latin, French: one year each.

Kate Cranz must have been quite successful as a teacher, since by 1894-95 she is an Associate Professor of German and French. Her position was perhaps strengthened by the fact that the Bachelor of Pedagogics curriculum, which had been developed by Professor Gordy, now required three years of a foreign language. 3

2 President's report, Trustees Minutes, June Session 1887, p. 349: "You are no doubt aware that Miss Wheeler left us last fall to accept a larger salary at Allegheny College. I was so fortunate as to find a very competent German lady to take her place, and her work so far has been very satisfactory. Though she has been in this Country but a few years she speaks English almost perfectly, has good health and is willing to work. She has been receiving but $50 per month so far. I recommend that this Sum be paid her for July and August and that she be regularly elected Instructor in German and French for next year at $600."

3 Additionally, a new program in Music required 540 hours of foreign language (out of a total of 2500 course hours). This enlightened approach by the music staff was apparently short-lived, since in the 1895-96 catalogue the language requirement is not listed, and we read: "Students who have had three years of lessons on the piano, two per week, and one of theory, or an equivalent, may be excused from all language study in the Preparatory Department" (p. 79).

Whether this apparent change in the Music curriculum seriously affected language enrollments is not clear (the requirements for the four degree programs did not change), but in any case the advanced language offerings are reduced at least through 1900, especially in French.