Henry H. H. Remak as Administrator – or as he put it – “a Lamb in Lamb’s Clothing”

Remak in his IAS office, 1992

Since May of 2011 I have been processing the professional papers of Henry H. H. Remak (1916 – 2009) who served Indiana University as a devoted professor, scholar and – at various points – administrator. At the end of last semester, I finished sorting this 108-box collection into groups of related materials – or series – based on Remak’s various roles at IU. This semester my work has begun on arranging and organizing each series. Last week, I finished arranging the administrative series, which highlights Remak’s diverse leadership roles. He served as chairman not only for one, but for three departments on campus – Germanic Studies (1962), Comparative Literature (1954-1963, intermittently) and West European Studies (1966-1969). Remak also served as Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Faculties (1969-1974), as well as Director of the Institute for Advanced Study(1988-1994, 1997-1998). While files from each of these diverse roles are included in the collection, for this post I’ll be focusing on Remak’s term as director of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).

IAS was founded in 1982 with the goal of bringing distinguished lecturers and visitors from all over the world to Bloomington in order to pursue their research and collaborate with IU faculty and students. Composer Leonard Bernstein, author Ursula K. Le Guin, and anthropologist Sir Edmund R. Leach are just a few of the noteworthy individuals that IAS has brought to IU in past years.

Remak with IAS fellow, Toru Haga, 1991

In 1988, when Remak assumed directorship of the Institute, he had already retired once. Yet, at the ripe, young age of 72 Remak was still teaching. He was also still active in his research, so what would stop him from directing “Indiana University’s leading center for the pursuit of new knowledge and new directions of inquiry in all fields of study” (Institute for Advanced Study)? In one of his “memos to fellow faculty members” – which were, without fail, characteristically enthusiastic, charming and rather lengthy – Professor Remak reassured his colleagues that he came to them “as a lamb in lamb’s clothing.” He went on to explain that his objectives were to “serve” the research needs of IU’s faculty and students, as well as “re-personalize” faculty interactions “in a university whose size and universality are great assets behind which lurks the danger of becoming a well-run bureaucracy where process is smothering substance.” During his tenure as director, Professor Remak certainly followed through with these promises by contributing to the Institute’s prolific list of fellows and visiting scholars.

Remak with Ivona Hedin of IAS and IAS fellow, Toshie Kawamoto, 1992

In 1989, Remak welcomed world-renowned semiotician, historian, and fiction author – Umberto Eco – to the Institute. In 1994 two-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and spokeswoman for the Chinese Democracy Movement – Chai Ling – came to IU thanks to the Institute. Leading European chemist Lord Lewis of Newnham and Sergei Denisov, who won the prestigious Lenin Prize in Physics, are just two more examples of the high-caliber scholars that Professor Remak helped bring to IU for the benefit of faculty and students alike. While I have just listed some “big” names to give you a small sample of what kinds of fellows the Institute was able to procure, as Remak noted:

The Institute for Advanced Study stands for more than bringing ‘big shots’ to Indiana University for ephemeral headlines. We have had our share of Nobel Prize winners and other celebrities (and that is fine), but we have also had “Assistant Lecturers” and “Resident Tutors.” Titles don’t matter. What matters is the quality of thinking and how it may contribute to Indiana University.

In 1994, Henry H. H. Remak retired from directing the Institute for Advanced Study. However, it would seem that Professor Remak had quite a flexible interpretation of the term retired. In 1997 he came back to the Institute in full swing and served as Interim Director for one more year. As gratitude for his many contributions as director, in 1994 the Remak Distinguished Scholarship award was set up in his honor. Additionally, in 1991 various IAS fellows contributed to a Liber Amicorum (a book compiled to honor a respected academic while they are still living) not only to thank Remak for his contributions to IAS but to mark the occasion of his 75th birthday.

As always, Remak did his job not just as a job but as a privilege that he undertook with skill, amiability and contagious enthusiasm.

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.

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.

The Henry H. H. Remak Collection- Processing Blog #4

Recently, I heard an IU alumnus apply an appropriate description to Professor Remak. She called him a true “renaissance man,” and I hope that my blog posts thus far have shown this to be true. Having taught and, at various points, served in an administrative capacity at IU for just under sixty years, Remak contributed much to IU and the Bloomington community. While most who knew him will remember him best as a caring teacher and friend, Remak was also a dedicated and successful scholar on a variety of subjects.

Since a comprehensive list of his professional interests would be quite extensive I will only mention several of the most prominent to the collection: the modern German novella and novel; German writers Goethe, Fontane and Thomas Mann; Franco-German literary and cultural relations; European Romanticism; and comparative student movements and countercultures of the 1960s and 70s. The collection contains a particularly rich source of information pertaining to the last of these. In addition to publishing several articles about student movements/life in Western Europe and the U. S., Henry Remak also taught an honors course that focused not only on student unrest at the university level but also faculty unrest, which he refers to in his course description as a “much neglected problem.”

The collection contains several files on this topic with German, French and American newspaper clippings, many of which were sent to him by friends living or traveling in Western Europe. Also contained in the files are some interesting ephemera, such as a newsletter from the University of Hamburg which gives a detailed chronology of student protests that occurred between January and February of 1969. Another particularly rare document from an earlier time and a much earlier era of political and educational unrest is a letter written by Ludwig Borne to his friend, Jacob Mass, in 1835. Ludwig Borne, who must have interested Henry Remak for both his relevance to student movements and for the fact that he immigrated to France due to religious persecution, was among a group of German writers who inspired young German liberals, especially students, to protest the rigid authority and Romantic ideology prevalent at the time.

Letter from Ludwig Borne to Jacob Maas, 1835

Professor Remak’s interest in student movements from this time period carried over, in many ways, to his concern for the structure and organization of IU. More specifically, Remak remained constantly watchful of student and faculty welfare, as evidenced by his research, publications and lectures given on topics of concern or needed areas of improvement for the organization and structure of the university, and even the interaction between faculty, students and administrators.

I had meant to deviate from the theme of my previous posts on this collection, but I think I’ve simply reiterated my earlier realization. Even in his scholarly research, Professor Remak seemed bent on safeguarding his beloved university, students and friends.