From Saarland to Sewanee: German Department welcomes a new professor

Photo by Kathleen Richter
Photo by Kathleen Richter

by Kathleen Richter
Staff Writer

The German Department is undergoing many changes this semester. The chair of the German department, Professor Reinhard Zachau, is on sabbatical during the entire spring semester. Ms. Caroline Frank, a young German doctoral candidate from Saarland, the smallest federal state in Germany, has come to Sewanee to fill in Zachau’s position for the semester.

Justus Bell (C’17) attends one of her German classes and says: “My first impression is that it is going to be completely and excitingly different. She is incredibly nice and caring to the class, but the best thing about her is that, this being her first time in America, she is wildly curious and fascinated at so much of what we speak and do daily, just like we are fascinated with what she speaks and does in Germany. She is here to teach us, of course, but it’s great to know that she gets to learn while she’s at Sewanee, too!”

Ms. Frank already loves Sewanee and its mentality. She is still working on her Doctorate and was happy to be considered to teach at the University of the South. Last weekend she visited the German house for a traditional coffee and cake session. She engaged in an amusing chitchat with the house residents and shared her fascination with the unique Sewanee relationships between students and professors, the existence of the Honor Code, and the maintenance and importance of the old traditions like the Order of Gownsman initiation ceremony.

At the end of the semester we not only have to say good bye to Frank, who will go back to Germany to finish her PhD, but also to a legend of the German Department, Professor James Davidheiser. He has spent 38 years in Sewanee and many years as the head of the German department. Davidheiser’s eyes start to shine with enthusiasm when he talks about his classes, “I had two classes today, Kafka and His Time and my Fairytale class, and I have to tell you, they were wonderful. I’m going to miss that.” He also assures that “it’s good to have some change, after you had a long career like this you are looking forward to start something new. I think it would be good for me to switch.”

He truly is passionate about the German language and culture. He does not only know how to make his lessons funny and entertaining, but he also cares about each of his students. He is the reason why Sewanee has a German Language House on campus and a German language lunch table. His dedication to the University of the South and his students is astonishing. He takes care of the one-year Bamberg exchange program and the yearly German exchange student. Although Davidheiser goes officially in retirement, he will be around for the next three years to teach his popular Literature and Culture Fairytale class once a year.

Prof. Davidheiser already achieved the national president position of the German Honor Society and had a big impact on Sewanee and its students. This is not enough for him; he wants to open up a new chapter of his life and “do good things.” He wants to help others who are less fortunate, and plans on taking more time for his family and traveling.

In early April, the German house will have a Spring party with German sausages and potato salad. This event will serve to say our final goodbyesto the visiting instructor Frank, to our wonderful exchange student Alex Konrad, and to our long Sewanee faculty member, Davidheiser. All of them, including the students of the class 2014, will leave Sewanee by the middle of May. Nevertheless, we are a big family and no matter where we go in America or the world, we will always stay connected.