David Neal Miller z"l (1946-2018)
We honor the life of David Neal Miller. He grew up in Crown Heights within earshot of Ebbets Field. His New York roots were everything to him. ''I'm a Brooklyn boy,'' he was quoted as saying over and over again. From 1995-2013, Professor Miller administered a website, 1010 President Street, named for his childhood home. The site was a forum for other Brooklynites, present and former, to record their recollections of the borough.
Dovid Miller completed his doctoral studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was not only a polyglot but a scholar and writer familiar with numerous literatures and cultures. In 1980, he took a position as an instructor at Ohio State and was quickly promoted to the rank of Assistant, then Associate Professor. A colleague in Germanic Languages and Literatures writes, “he certainly knew more about German literature than did his colleagues about his own fields of expertise. In the modern period he was an enthusiastic aficionado of Bertolt Brecht and epic theater. Having read most of Brecht’s poems and plays and having seen theater productions by the Berliner Ensemble in East Berlin, he was able to recite lines from Brecht’s plays and songs by heart. One of his favorites was Brecht’s libretto for Paul Dessau’s opera The Condemnation of Lucullus (the Roman general who after his death is tried by judge and jury in the underworld), from which Dovid was able to sing extended passages with conviction and zest.”
In the summer of 1980, before beginning at Ohio State, Dovid taught a course at SUNY-Albany, Great Yiddish Authors in English Translation, together with Isaac Bashevis Singer. In Columbus, Professor Miller taught Yiddish literature, Ashkenazic cultural studies, narratology, and critical theory courses. He offered many courses to expose students to Yiddish and Ashkenazic culture. Yiddish language, Literature in Translation, Yiddish culture, and Brooklyn: The Poetics of Place, were courses popular with undergraduate students. In 1984, Prof. Miller worked to initiate the Minor in Yiddish at Ohio State. Several years later, the Master of Arts became an option, and then a PhD since 1996, when Yiddish and Ashkenazic Studies moved to the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. Prof. Miller successfully directed the programs for many years. In 2006, Prof. Miller traveled to the People’s Republic of China and soon established a vibrant scholarly exchange. The first postdoc to engage in this exchange later returned to Shanghai and helped to reintroduce Jewish American studies to the PRC.
Dovid’s visiting appointments over the years included SUNY at Albany, Bar-Ilan University, Fudan University, Oxford University, and Vilnius University. He published A Bibliography of Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1924-1949 (1983), and Fear of Fiction: Narrative Strategies in the Works of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1985), as well as numerous articles on I. B. Singer; Sholom Aleichem; Y.-L. Perets; fictive discourse; interview as genre; and theory of allusion.
Prof. Miller’s service to the community included lectures and classes at the Jewish Center Yiddish Organization in Columbus, Congregation Beth Am, Congregation Tifereth Israel, Jewish Centers in Lima and Dayton, Ohio, B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation, Congregation Beth Tikvah, and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus.
Politically, Dovid was committed to justice for the oppressed. These included the poor, the weak, the disabled, the disconsolate, the underprivileged, the disenfranchised, and of course women. If his work focused primarily on the legacies of Ashkenaz extending from Vilnius to Brooklyn and beyond, he was just as concerned with the plight and suffering of those elsewhere, be they African-Americans or indigenous peoples in the Americas and others around the world. These attitudes were not merely ideological, but expressed themselves on a daily level in simple acts of kindness and generosity, on the Ohio State campus in particular, toward the thousands of students he taught over the years.
Nor was his commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and the truth restricted to a facile understanding of professionalism. For Dovid, the individual person, the human being came first, even if at the occasional cost of his professional advancement. During the extended illness and later death of his first wife Marcy J. Miller, he turned his full attention to the well-being of his family, and as a widower remained a benevolent father utterly devoted to the care of his two (then young) children Jacob and Rachel. When Dovid remarried, he found a loving partner in Renée Primack, who devoted herself to his care in every way. At a departmental meeting a few weeks ago, Renée helped Dovid into the room and then asked, "is there anything else you need?" Dovid answered, "your love." "You always have that," she responded.
Dovid will be sorely missed by so many. May his memory be a blessing.
Heimtraut F. Taylor (1939-2017)
We mourn the passing of Heimy Taylor, who died at her home surrounded by family on March 21, 2017. We remember her modesty, dedicated and committed teaching, superior and caring guidance of countless young teachers, and her pioneering research into the development of computer software for foreign language education.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, Heimy married and emigrated to the United States, earning degrees in Utah and Pennsylvania. She wrote her dissertation at Washington University, St. Louis, “Die Bedeutung der Familie in der Novellistik und dem Leben Theodor Storms: Eine literatur-soziologische Studie“ with Professor Peter Uwe Hohendahl, after which she joined the faculty at Ohio State in the fall of 1973.
From 1973-1979, Heimy served as Associate Director of Language Instruction in the Department of German. During these years, she worked together with Werner Haas on three innovative and effective computer programs: Deutscher Computer Unterricht (1973; rev. 1974, 1975), Tutorial Computer (1974), and Deutscher Computer Unterricht for Individualized Instruction (1978). And in 1986, she completed a significant comprehensive computer-assisted German grammar program and tutorial (Tuco II).
When she was tenured in the fall of 1979, she was also promoted to Director of Undergraduate Language Instruction. Heimy mentored and guided hundreds of graduate students in their role as Graduate Teaching Associates and served on over 30 graduate examination committees. In her first 14 years of supervision, seven German GTA’s were awarded Ohio State’s Alumni Distinguished Graduate Student Teaching Award.
Her promotion to Full Professor in the fall of 1988 was fully deserved recognition for Heimy’s excellent teaching and service, her pedagogical texts, and the extraordinarily creative and effective cutting-edge research in and development of foreign language instruction tools.
In the spring of 1992, Professor Taylor was awarded the University’s Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award.
Heimy’s collegial mentorship and generosity of spirit will long be remembered by her colleagues in the Department and in the profession at large. As a devoted member of the American Association of Teachers of German, she supported the teaching of German at all levels through her many workshops and conference presentations locally, statewide and nationally. Her productive collaborations with colleagues resulted in two successful textbooks Deutsch - Immer Besser : A Four Skills Approach for Intermediate German (co-authored with Werner Haas and Elfe Vallaster Dona) and the popular self-teaching handbook, German A Self-Teaching Guide (with Werner Haas). In addition to her regular research, teaching and outreach work, Heimy was for many years—even after her retirement from Ohio State in June 1995—a beloved and popular member of the summer German-language teaching staff of the American Institute for Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria. She touched many lives and will be sadly missed.
Ilsedore Maria Edse (1918-2015)
We mourn the passing of Ilsedore Maria Edse, who died peacefully on December 4, 2015. We remember her great spirit, collegiality and generosity, and her devotion to undergraduate and foreign language education.
Born in Koblenz, Germany, Professor Edse emigrated to America with her family in 1946. She was admitted to The Ohio State University, where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in 1952, her Master’s in 1954, and her Ph.D. in 1960. As a Graduate Assistant Instructor, she had begun to teach in the Department of German at Ohio State in 1952, and soon after finishing her doctoral studies, she joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor.
For Professor Edse, teaching at Ohio State was more than a profession -- it was a vocation which she pursued with passion and pride. She taught German Composition and Conversation, German for Reading Knowledge, 20th-century German Literature, German Drama, Business German, and Intermediate German Language courses in the Department.
In the late 1950’s, Professor Edse had begun to work in radio and television, writing and producing German-language instructional programs and conducting on-air interviews. Lester W. Spencer, Assistant Program Supervisor at WOSU at the time, wrote of his appreciation for her work on the German Course series: "You have a personality strong enough to penetrate the radio barriers which is most difficult to accomplish. You add a great deal in making the programs on both radio and television both informative and interesting."
Throughout her career, Professor Edse continued to work tirelessly in the classroom, in radio and television, and on publishing German language textbooks: the Ja, German Spoken, Let's Speak German, and Wie Geht's? series. She gave talks and presentations across the Midwest and at conferences around the country.
In 1964, Professor Edse was the first woman to receive the "Teacher of the Year" award from the Student Council of the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State for "excellence of undergraduate teaching." That same year, she received an Emmy nomination from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for her "Visit to Germany" series. Four years later, she received another Emmy nomination for her "Ja! German Spoken" series.
On the 8th of April 1980, the Consul General of West Germany telephoned the department chair to inform him that Ilsedore Edse had been named a recipient of the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Order of Merit), the highest award which the German government bestows in recognition for distinguished contributions to international understanding. Professor Edse was, after Dieter Cunz, the second member of the then 100-year-old OSU Department of German to be so honored. She was cited specifically for "her outstanding teaching in the university's German department and her innovative programming on WOSU radio and television." At the award ceremony, David Benseler, chair of the department, said: "The strongest thing one encounters when one meets Dr. Edse is not only her love of life but her love of humanity. She embodies the notion that conflict is avoided when people speak each other's language."
More accolades followed. She received the 1984 Ohioana Citation for her distinguished service to Ohio in the field of intercultural understanding, her innovative teaching accomplishments, and her exceptional abilities as a television writer, performer, and producer in her interpretation of German language and culture. The next year, she was presented with the 1985 Faculty Service Award by the National University Continuing Education Association.
Shortly before her retirement, The Ohio State University selected Professor Edse as a recipient of the 1988 Distinguished Service Award. President Jennings wrote: "For more than three decades, ... as a demanding and inspiring teacher, you have been a mentor, role model, advisor, and friend at Ohio State. To many, your name is synonymous with German at Ohio State. You have worked tirelessly to establish close and fruitful ties between the German-American population of Ohio and the University for the cause of international understanding. Your contributions have brought you the respect and affection of your students and colleagues."
In her final “Annual Faculty Report” for the Department, Professor Edse wrote:
“I will retire at the end of 1988. I started teaching in 1952, Radio in 1954, TV in 1957 and kept up my activities through 36 years. In addition, I was in charge of students in the German House for seven years in the seventies. It was an activity-filled life at OSU. It was very satisfying.”
She retired on December 31, 1988. As a visible sign of gratitude, in deep appreciation and friendship for Professor Edse, her friends and colleagues in the Department and the College of Humanities decided to establish the Ilsedore Edse Fund for support of Undergraduate Students of German. A colleague at the time wrote, "It is so like Ilsedore -- the only gift she would accept from us is one she can give away to others." To date, over 21 undergraduate students of German at Ohio State have been awarded this coveted scholarship.
As we mourn Ilsedore's passing, we also celebrate her achievements and her indelible contributions to our department, the university, and to intercultural understanding. Those who knew her will sorely miss her creative flair, generous nature, and warm humor.
If you would like to make a contribution in memory of Ilsedore to the Ilsedore Edse Scholarship Fund Supporting Undergraduates of German, you can do so through this secure link: Ilsedore Edse Fund 308792 , or by contacting the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at 614-292-6985.
Alexander Stephan (1946-2009)
In May 2009 our dear and esteemed colleague, Ohio Eminent Scholar and Professor of German Alexander Stephan passed away. Alex had been battling brain cancer for several years. He died peacefully in his home in Schmöckwitz in the eastern part of Berlin, a city to whose culture and people he devoted so much of his work over the years; he is buried in nearby Grünau.
Alex joined our faculty in 2000; he divided his time between the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and the Mershon Center for International Securities Studies. In the Department we knew him as a beloved teacher, advisor and mentor, as an esteemed and learned colleague and friend, as a partner for scholarly exchange. As a fellow at the Center he found the time, space and intellectual environment to investigate his interest in US-German and, later, US-European cultural relations (including post-war Americanization and Anti-Americanism). Just this afternoon a student and I were reminiscing about Alex, his insights, his knowledge, his passion, his smile, his generosity, and his uncanny ability to bring people together. I think Alex understood people very well. I'll never forget a lunch I had with him soon after learning that I would be the new chair of the Department. Alex, a former chair himself, offered me wise advice, he jestingly consoled me in advance for tasks he knew would be difficult, he inspired me with confidence, and he reminded me how important it is to listen.
In his official announcement to the faculty, Dean John Roberts put it in a nutshell: "He was a brilliant scholar and a genuinely nice man." As our colleague Helen Fehervary pointed out—one can say the one or the other about many, however, both attributes are rarely found in one person. Alex, we shall miss you, ave atque vale.
Anna Grotans Chairperson
A short biography of Alex's life by Helen Fehervary and Bernd Fischer, "Introduction." Kulturpolitik und Politik der Kultur / Cultural Politics and the Politics of Culture. Festschrfit für Alexander Stephan. Helen Fehervary and Bernd Fischer, eds. Bern: Peter Lang, 2007, 9-14 (German Life and Civilization, vol. 47).
Charles W. Hoffmann (1929-2007)
We mourn the passing of Professor Emeritus of German Literature and Film Charles W. Hoffmann who died at the James Hematology Center of OSU Hospitals on October 29, 2007. He is remembered as an enthusiastic and devoted teacher, a respected colleague and friend, a dedicated member of the academic community who served his department, his university, and his profession with distinction over the years.
Professor Hoffmann held a Bachelor's degree (1951) from Oberlin College where he was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, and M.A. (1952) and Ph.D. (1956) degrees in German Literature from the University of Illinois. As a two-year Fulbright fellow in 1953-55 he studied literature and political science at the University of Munich. In 1956 he joined the German faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles where in 1962 he received the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award. In 1964 he accepted a position as Associate Professor at The Ohio State University, was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1966, and taught at OSU for a total of 28 years until his retirement in 1992. He served as Chair of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures from 1969 to 1977 and again in 1986-87.
Under his leadership in the 1970s the Department instituted numerous administrative reforms, expanded its graduate and undergraduate programs in keeping with emerging interests in interdisciplinary and cultural studies, and developed one of the best TA-training and German language programs in the country. During this time German 299: Weimar and the Third Reich in German Literature and Film was instituted, a course that in Hoffmann's hands became the Department's most popular offering and one he taught with resounding success quarter after quarter until his retirement. Just as he knew how to reach out to others across the lecturn and the disciplines, Chuck Hoffmann stood steadfast at the helm of his ship. He was not only our Department's head, not only its center, but also its heart. His colleagues and students from those years will long remember the acts of personal kindness and generosity that were his trademark, acts for which he expected no return and of which he gave freely.
Chuck Hoffmann's personal values were reflected in his larger political commitment to civil rights and peace and justice issues. His scholarly and teaching interests addressed liberal humanistic principles in German literature before and after World War Two. His book Opposition Poetry in Nazi Germany (University of California Press, 1961) was the first in-depth treatment of this topic. His editions of works by Kafka, Brecht and Böll were published by New York: Norton in 1961 and 1970, his Survey of Research Tool Needs in German Language and Literature by the OSU Research Foundation in 1978. Over the decades he authored numerous papers and journal articles on contemporary German writers and trends. He was also a theater enthusiast versed in modern drama from Ibsen and Shaw to the Expressionists and Brecht to Arthur Miller and Tom Stoppard, and an active supporter of progressive local theater groups in Columbus, in Ohio, and in the greater Midwest.
Professor Hoffmann's contributions in service to The Ohio State University were legion. He was a member of and often chaired important College and University committees, including the Faculty Council, the Arts and Sciences Senate, several search committees for deans of the College of Humanities, Department and Program Review committees, the Film Studies Committee, Study Abroad Committee, Fulbright Fellowship Selection Committee, Library Council, and many others. He also chaired the National Honorary Member Committee of Phi Beta Kappa and served in various capacities for the American Association of Teachers of German, the Modern Language Association of America, as well as the American Association of University Professors in which he held executive positions, among them as chair of its OSU chapter from 1984 to 1986.
Throughout his career Professor Hoffmann was a staunch advocate of faculty governance and academic freedom. As early as in 1970-72 he chaired the OSU Committee to Establish a University Senate. Perhaps his greatest later achievement lay in his success in initiating and shepherding through faculty and administration channels a University Rule stating that tenure resides not in the tenure initiating unit but the university: in the event such a unit is dismantled its tenured members retain all the rights and responsibilities of tenured university faculty. In 1983 Hoffmann was honored as the recipient of the OSU/AAUP Louis Nemzer Award for defense of academic freedom and service to faculty governance.
We extend our condolences to Chuck Hoffmann's wife Barbara, his son Erik, and his daughter Karla. As we mourn his passing we also celebrate the life and contributions of this exemplary colleague, teacher, scholar, and friend.