A tribute to irreplaceable wisdom

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As the news of Don Schilling’s retirement has spread throughout Denisonia, thousands of former students have had fair cause to recall ways the (now) professor emeritus of history challenged and shaped their minds—and not just with regard to modern European history. In his 41 years of service to the college, Schilling also served as department chair, associate provost, dean of first-year students, chair of the faculty, and director of a Denison-based program in the 1980s that helped college-bound black South African students prepare for American culture and education.

Schilling has been a mainstay on the Granville scene as well, and the Rotary Club of Granville recently recognized his contributions with the organization’s highest honor, the Allen Avery Service Above Self Award. The presentation featured moving tributes from several community members, and among them was Cathy Dollard ’88, one of Schilling’s former students and his colleague in the History Department since 1996. We are pleased to share the following excerpt of her remarks…

It is not just the quantity of Don’s service that is impressive.  Though note well – it is impressive.  But as all who have ever worked with Don in any capacity know, the quality of his work is outstanding.  Don’s thoughtful and fair approach to the work of the college has been matched by a tireless work ethic, insightful analysis, and a desire to make the college a better place.  After word of Don’s retirement began to spread, countless colleagues have asked, how can we replace Don’s wisdom?  We can’t – but we have all learned from it and the work of the place will be much the better if we continue to strive to follow his example.

Cathy Dollard ’88

Don is also a gifted teacher. Students have flocked to his courses, which have spanned the range of Modern European History.  His survey courses on European and African history have been dynamic and memorable.  His upper-level courses on Nazi Germany, World War II, Europe at its Zenith, and most notably, the Holocaust in History, have had a tremendous impact on generations of Denison students.  The Holocaust course, I suspect, has been both Don’s most challenging course to develop and the most rewarding course to teach.  In the academic world, Don is at the forefront of a vital generation of European historians who have created a collegial network dedicated to bringing the history of genocide to the classroom – bringing to undergraduates evidence and analysis of the worst of what humans can create is no easy task.  Don does it with grace and thoughtfulness; ultimately this most difficult course serves to inspire.  This is no small achievement.  His own recent scholarship has embraced the history of the Holocaust, linking it to local history in a thoughtful and thorough analysis of what residents of Granville and Licking County could have known about genocide in Europe.

This bridge to the local community has been an essential part of Don’s career.  He has been a core member of the Ohio Academy of Historians.  He has been an enthusiastic contributor to the work of the Granville Historical Society, volunteering countless hours of service and acting in leadership roles, most recently as president during its expansion.

Don is a community guy – that’s why we’re here today.  From the Granville Tennis League to the Concert Choir, to serving as the voice of the Denison Women’s Basketball team, to Little League coaching (the list goes on and on) he has been an unforgettable and generous presence in the life of both town and gown.  As you know, Don and Mary will be retiring in Williamsburg, VA.  It was said at an event honoring Don that “you can take Don out of Granville, but you can’t take Denison and Granville out of Don.”  I’d like to expand on that a bit: we might not meet Don on our daily walks thru campus and town, but Don’s presence in the life of Denison and Granville will not go away.  For each of us who seeks to link town and gown, and who have experienced the delights of the interconnectedness of our community, will be walking on the Schilling path.

Over nine years in the 1980s and ’90s, Denison hosted a program to help acquaint more than 1,000 black South African students with American culture and education. Schilling directed the program for six of those years. As Cathy Dollard said, “This work required the skills of international diplomacy, organizational acumen, spirited leadership, kind counseling, and occasional elements of crisis management. Professor Schilling was more than up for the job.”

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3:13 AM September 10, 2013

Gitanjali Bakshi wrote:

A truly inspirational man. My husband and I took Prof. Schilling’s class on Nazi Germany and, needless to say, we were quite emotional while writing our thesis papers. I still remember studying the Sonderweg thesis and Chritpher Browning’s ‘ordinary men’. Very few people have the gift of being able to bring the world into the classroom – to get students to feel and think and ponder over the human condition. Truly loved the honor of being in your classroom Don Schilling. Hope you can read this.

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3:10 PM June 20, 2012

Natalie Keller Pariano wrote:

Don Schilling is a treasure. His genuine love for learning and especially for students will be dearly missed by all at Denison.

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8:53 AM June 19, 2012

Dave Selby wrote:

Cathy has said with eloquence what many of us feel. I have worked with Don in several different capacities over the last 16 years that I have been at Denison. He always made me feel appreciated. He is what Denison is best known for, people who make a difference in people’s lives. Thank you Don for your forty plus years of service.

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