Still Together: The Love Story of Otto and Mathilda Klopsch

The IU Sundial outside of Maxwell Hall

According to IU legend, if a couple kisses within the Rose Well House at midnight on Valentine’s Day then that couple will stay together forever. Certainly the Rose Well House, with its charming façade and exquisite stained glass windows, is a romantic locale for any date. However, there is an even more romantic site on campus that not only has a love story to tell but is also the final resting place for two of IU’s most inspirational students.

Otto Klopsch, Class of 1896

The IU sundial, now situated just outside of Maxwell Hall, inspires little notice from busy students and faculty members who trek by on their way to class. The sundial was presented to IU by the graduating class of 1868, and until 1896 it resided on the old campus near Second Street and College Avenue. This seemingly ordinary landmark played a key role in the lives of two IU students, Mathilda Zwicker and Otto Paul Klopsch. Mathilda and Otto met at the sundial, and while this may seem like just another unremarkable chapter in the sundial’s history, the more romantic at heart will see that the lives of Mathilda and Otto were inextricably linked to the sundial from their very first meeting. In 1896 the sundial was relocated to Maxwell Hall. That same year Mathilde and Otto graduated from IU and went on to marry.

Mathilda Zwicker Klopsch, Class of 1896

Not much is known about the details of Mathilda’s and Otto’s life together. What we do know is that after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from IU, Otto went on to receive his master’s from the University of Wisconsin in Germanic languages and literature. For much of his professional life, he worked as a language teacher at a high school in Cleveland, Ohio. In a eulogy given by a friend and colleague, Otto was described not only as being an “inspiring” and knowledgeable teacher, but as “dignified in person, courteous, and pleasant.” Like her husband, Mathilda was admired and loved by many. One friend said of Mathilda, “She has left a path strewn with immortal memories of loyalty, courage, ability, and whole-hearted friendliness.” Together, the college sweethearts had two daughters and a son – Olga, Elsa and Otto, Jr. Mathilda and Otto were happily married for thirty-seven years, but in 1933 Mathilda passed away. Two years later Otto followed.

Mathilda and Otto often reminisced to their children about their college days, and so on July 3rd, 1935 Otto Klopsch Jr. met with President William Lowe Bryan and requested to spread his parents’ ashes at the base of the sundial. The request was granted, and shortly thereafter Otto, Jr. laid his parents to rest. Upon closer inspection one will notice a bronze plaque at the base of the sundial, which reads:

Mathilda Zwicker Klopsch
Otto Paul Klopsch
Class of 1896
They met at this sundial
when classmates.
Their ashes rest here
together until eternity.

The sundial has been worn by time and the elements, and today few students are familiar with the love story that surrounds this seemingly ordinary piece of IU history. However, if there is any location on IU’s campus that is worthy of a pause and a lovers’ kiss this Valentine’s Day, it is the sundial where two college sweethearts were brought together and are together still.

The urn that carried Otto and Mathilda's ashes to IU.

The urn which Otto Klopsch, Jr. used to transport his parents’ ashes to their final resting place is currently on display in our reading room. Additionally, if you are interested in reading more about Otto and Mathilda, please contact us at the IU Archives. In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day!



Processing Blog #7: The Henry H. H. Remak Collection

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update on the Henry H. H. Remak Collection. The fall semester is now behind us, and I’m happy to say that I have almost completed a first run through. My processing on this collection began back in April and since then, I have sorted through 99 boxes of materials and have only 9 more to go!

Up to this point I have sorted the files into various series: administrative files; teaching files; editorial files; research and publications; professional associations and activities; and correspondence. More recently, I’ve had to start sorting by decade, as many of the records came to us out of folders and without any clear organization. Over the last month, I’ve come across quite a few files, mostly correspondence, pertaining to Remak’s tenure as vice-chancellor and dean of faculties from 1969-1974. Also, if you are interested in Henry Remak’s research in comparative literature, a multitude of research notes will soon be available for you to peruse.

My work is far from over, but I hope to have this collection researcher-friendly by next fall. In the meantime, I’ll continue to keep you posted!

Henry H. H. Remak – An Angel in Disguise – Processing Blog #6

The Henry H. H. Remak collection that I am processing here at the IU Archives can be thought of as a paper trail, evidence of a man’s life as a teacher, administrator, scholar, friend. The papers contained within are the results of a professional life, but for Henry the professional was almost always personal and the personal was often also professional. For this post I would like to focus in on just one file from the collection-in-progress. The file itself tells a particularly riveting story in which Henry Remak takes on the role of guardian angel for a young Burmese student.

The student I speak of, whom from here on out I will refer to as T, was born in New York City in the late 1950s but returned to Burma (now Myanmar) to live with her family, eventually attaining a degree in economics from the Institute of Economics in Rangoon, Burma and working as a teacher. For most of its known history, Burma has been a country overwhelmed by war and poverty. During T’s childhood and early adulthood, the situation in Burma was particularly dire and the country may have been at its most troubled state in centuries. It is no wonder then that T was desperate to leave her country in search of a better life, like so many other Burmese people during this time period. In a letter written to Frederic V. Grunfeld, a journalist and author who was Henry Remak’s brother-in-law, T described her situation: “The future here is very bleak for me and even my patriotism and idealism to serve my country and people has had to gradually be giving way to reality. I know I can’t contribute anything meaningful if I stay here any longer, except to teach. . . and show compassion and understanding and give moral support. . . ” Grunfeld, who had met T’s father in New York City in the 1950s, paid several visits to T and her family in the early 1980s. He seemed particularly entranced by T, describing her in a letter to Ingrid and Henry Remak as “an extraordinary young woman” who was one of the “brightest people” he had ever met. Grunfeld sent the letter hoping that something could be done for T, namely that she could get admitted to IU.

Letter from Remak to Economics Department
Just days after Grunfeld’s letter was received, Henry Remak brought T to the attention of IU’s Department of Economics and for the next year Remak and Grunfeld worked together to arrange for T to fulfill the necessary requirements she would need in order to apply for IU. From the start it was evident that without financial aid or an assistantship of some kind T would not be able to afford tuition, not to mention a life in the United States. Grunfeld contextualized her situation well when he pointed out that the average Burmese family lives on the equivalent of $50 a year. An additional concern was the fact that the Burmese government did not make it easy for anyone to leave Burma, even for educational purposes. The trip to the U. S. Embassy in Burma was in itself a dangerous, potentially fatal move for T. Nevertheless, in December of 1982 T sent in her application for admission to IU’s doctoral program in economics. She was accepted and promised an appointment as an associate instructor with a tuition fee remission, as well as a modest stipend for living expenses. Without having even met this young woman, Professor Remak, along with his brother-in-law, promised to cover any additional financial expenses over the four years that T would need to complete her Ph. D.

A letter from T to Henry H. H. Remak, 1983
T arrived in Bloomington several weeks late due to a delay in attaining her passport and visa, but when she did arrive Henry and Ingrid were waiting for her at the airport. The Remaks allowed T to stay with them for her first week in Bloomington, before she eventually moved into one of the residence halls here on campus. Henry and Ingrid assumed a very parental attitude toward T, allowing her to visit and even spend the night at their house whenever she needed to get away from campus. Henry even bought T a nice winter coat as a gift, as she came to the United States extremely unprepared for the harsh winter that was soon to come. Despite her lack of preparation and evident culture shock during her first couple of months at IU, Henry Remak described her as hard-working and able to make friends easily.

In a letter dated January 3, 1984 from Henry Remak to Fred Grunfeld, it was apparent that T was struggling academically, not merely struggling but almost failing. Remak posited that her academic troubles were a result of the study of economics in Burma being far behind that of the United States. Her professors were as understanding as they could be under the circumstances, but by August of 1984 T had lost her funding and failed her qualifying examinations, thereby making it impossible for her to continue with her doctoral studies. At this point, Professor Remak advised T to at least complete a master’s degree in the department, which would take her an additional year and required that she merely pass the necessary courses. At this point, Remak began loaning T money for tuition, rent, and basic living expenses that he did not have much hopes of ever getting back considering T’s troubles in academia and the economic situation in Burma if she were to continue her life there. Not surprisingly, Frederic Grunfeld felt responsible for T and had the intention of reimbursing Professor Remak for at least some of the money he had loaned T. However, there is evidence to suggest that Remak did not accept much, if any, of the money Grunfeld sent to Henry Remak, probably due to a difference in financial means.

The Remaks’ and Grunfeld’s willingness to assist T did not end there. Eventually, T was accepted as a doctoral candidate to another university’s Department of Economics. Even though she was no longer even associated with IU, Remak continued to advise and back her financially, serving as a guarantor who would cover a certain portion of her tuition if university funding or other means did not become available to T. Perhaps due to the financial and academic stress that her time at IU must have caused her, it seems that T did not end up continuing her higher education, at least during the span of this set of correspondence, which dates from 1982 to 1987. Rather, T seems to have found work on the east coast.

Letter from Remak to T in regards to the loan, 1987
In the last letter of this file, Remak responds to a thank you note sent from T in which she promised to someday repay Henry Remak for all that he had done for her. The response further illustrates Henry Remak’s generosity: “[R]epaying Fred and furthering your own continued education should be higher priorities for you than reimbursing us. Whenever you are in a position to repay us, we would like to donate at least half of the total sum. . . to an ‘Emergency Help for Foreign Students’ Fund [to be] set up here at Indiana University. . .” It’s not clear whether or not T ever fully repaid Fred Grunfeld or Henry Remak, but whether she did or not it is clear that Henry Remak was a man of remarkable character and kindness.

IU’s Civilian Pilot Training Program

In the years leading up to World War II there was an escalating climate of unsolicited preparedness. With a certain level of foresight, several countries in Europe, such as Italy and Germany, began government-sanctioned pilot training for civilians. The United States was quick to follow suit, and in 1939 the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), a program designed to nest within eligible colleges and universities, was formed under the supervision of the Civilian Aeronautics Authority (CAA). The CAA began accepting applications from interested academic institutions and Indiana University, at the urging of President Herman B Wells, was among the first to apply.

Application for IU to join CPTP

At that time, Bloomington did not have an airport with suitable facilities for the program; nevertheless, the CAA accepted IU’s application contingent on the completion of a new municipal airport, which the City of Bloomington, under the auspices of the Works Projects Administration (WPA), intended to complete by September of 1940. The WPA had approved a $306,000 budget for construction of this new, “modern” airport. When completed the airport would boast classroom space set aside specifically for the CPTP and four runways varying between 2500 and 4000 feet in length. In the meantime IU was authorized to begin the program with somewhat lower numbers of trainees than completion of the airport would eventually allow for.

Eligible students were required to pass a physical examination and submit a laboratory fee of $40, a small sum according to the CAA, which claimed that the course was valued at $500. Colonel John F. Landis, professor of military science and tactics at IU, was chosen as director of the program. Ground school classes, which included such topics as the history of aviation, the theory of flight, meteorology, navigation and civil air regulations, began on January 8th, 1940. Lieutenant Charles Daudt, professor of aviation, was instructor for the first ground school course. Students were required to complete 72 hours of ground school curriculum, in addition to 35 to 50 hours of actual flight training. The flight training was split into three different stages: dual instruction, primary solo flight and practice, as well as advanced solo flight and practice. After completion of the ground school and flight training requirements, pilots-in-training were required to complete a private flight test. It is unclear exactly where the CPTP students underwent their hands-on flight instruction and practice, but some correspondence refers to the site of the “old airport,” which may allude to the Bloomington Airport once located on White Hall Pike. Graduates of the first CPTP class included 28 men and 1 woman.

It is interesting to note that not everyone was as supportive of the program as President Wells. In retrospect, the motives behind the establishment of the CPTP may seem obvious, but when the program began there was still a generally ambivalent attitude on involving the United States in a foreign war which had not yet hit home, so to speak. Pearl Harbor, the event which is attributed to spurring the U. S. into the second world war was still over a year away when the CPTP was getting started. So, while the training program was praised and welcomed by some, others were not so favorably impressed. Edwin C. Johnson, a Democrat and two time governor of Colorado (1933-1937, 1955-1957) published a pamphlet in the early spring of 1940 entitled “Mars In Civilian Disguise.” The pamphlet set out to “expose” and criticize the program for essentially being “a camouflage for a definitely militaristic project,” a project that was attempting, from the very start, to propel the American people down a war path.

In contrast, President Herman B Wells, along with other members of the administration and student body were enthusiastic about the program from the very start. In a letter to Robert H. Hinckley of the CAA, President Wells stated that the CPTP “[had] been a splendid addition” to IU’s educational offerings. Along with Col. Landis, Wells worked hard to convince the CAA to increase IU’s allotted quota of students from thirty to fifty, but the CAA insisted upon completion of the Bloomington Municipal Airport before allowing IU to increase its numbers. The goal was to eventually allow for three groups of fifty students to be trained per year. While several more CPTP graduating classes were ushered through the program from 1940 to the summer of 1941, problems arose when construction of the airport did not progress as planned. As a result, the CPTP was temporarily discontinued and re-implemented shortly thereafter following completion of the airport. As far as we know the program continued through the early part of 1942. At some point the Civilian Pilot Training Program was shut down permanently at IU, although the CPTP would continue at other universities across the United States through 1944.

Further research is needed to definitely answer the question of what caused the permanent shut down of the Civilian Pilot Training Program at IU. Perhaps it was due to inadequate facilities at the new airport, or perhaps it was a decline in interest. About a dozen files pertaining to the CPTP are located in Herman B Wells’ President’s Office Records. If you are interested in learning more about IU’s short-lived Civilian Pilot Training Program, please contact us at the Archives.

Henry H. H. Remak as “The Mad Dutchman”- a Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity Brother- Processing Blog #5

An article written by H. Remak for Sigma Zetan, 1937

Before Henry H. H. Remak established himself as a distinguished scholar and professor in the fields of Comparative Literature, Germanic and West European Studies, Remak was but a humble IU student. A young German Jew living in Berlin at the outbreak of World War II, he considered himself lucky to have been granted a university scholarship from the IU Sigma Zeta Chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu (SAM), a fraternity which welcomes members of all faiths but has a strong tradition of attracting Jewish men to its ranks. Remak was pledged in 1937 and initiated as a Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity brother, or “Sammy,” in 1938. In a 1982 eulogy written for Jimmy Hammerstein, who was a major instigator of helping young Jewish men escape Nazi Germany under the sponsorship of SAM, Remak states that “Jimmy’s and SAM’s initiative very likely saved [his life].” It is no wonder then that Remak remained a dedicated and loyal Sammy up until his death in 2009.

Remak showed his dedication in a variety of ways. For one, he was the Faculty Adviser for Sigma Zeta from 1946 until his “retirement” in 1987. (Remak continued to teach at the university and remained very much involved with Sigma Alpha Mu students even after his “retirement.”) As Faculty Adviser and even later on, without that official title, Remak took it upon himself to look out for fellow Sammies both young and old. Many a recommendation letter was written to help a Sammy find a job, apply for graduate school, etc. There are quite a few letters in the collection which Henry Remak received from old fraternity brothers asking for help in various situations. Nevermind that Remak hadn’t seen or talked to many of these men in decades, the bond between fraternity brothers must have been sacred to Remak, for he did not take that bond lightly. On at least one occasion, Remak even vouched for a young Sammy who was on the verge of getting dismissed due to failing grades. Though Remak had never met the young man, he did what he could to ensure that the student would get a second chance. Grateful for that chance, the young man stayed in touch with Professor Remak from that point on.

In 1959, Remak was also selected as the National Scholarship Chairman of SAM. This role entailed keeping a watchful eye on the grade reports of undergraduate men still in the IU chapter and evaluating scholarship award applicants. In the early 1980s, Remak would assist SAM in soliciting funds and support from the university and from SAM alums to build a new chapter house on North Jordan Avenue. I have no doubt that Henry Remak donated some funds himself, as I’ve come across many “thank you” notes addressed to Remak from SAM upon receiving a financial contribution or sometimes a necessary item or two for the fraternity house.

H. Remak with fellow Sammies at a SAM reunion, circa 1990s

So far, I’ve come across about a dozen files that relate to Sigma Alpha Mu, but as the collection is still being processed I won’t be surprised if there are more waiting in the wings. Items of interest include a signed copy of Henry Remak’s Sigma Alpha Mu Constitution (Blue Book), dated 1935, which he must have received around the time of his initiation into the fraternity. There are also quite a few newspaper articles and copies of the Sigma Zetan and Octagonian newsletters that contain articles mentioning Remak and some that were even written by him. Copies of Henry Remak’s insistent letters to the Budget Administration regarding the new chapter house and to fellow Sammies are also available for perusal.

So, whether you knew Henry H. H. Remak as “The Mad Dutchman”- his nom de plume of choice when corresponding with fraternity kin- or whether you are just interested in finding out more about Professor Remak or about SAM in general, keep this collection in mind for your future visits to the Archives.