The Henry H. H. Remak Collection has been processed!

Over two years ago I started processing the papers of Professor Emeritus Henry H. H. Remak. Now his papers are available for research! Before telling you more about the collection, let me tell you a little about Professor Remak himself.

Who was Henry H. H. Remak?

Photo courtesy Tyagan Miller, Heartland Photography

Henry H. H. Remak was born a German Jew in Berlin on July 27, 1916. In 1936, Remak came to the United States on an international YMCA scholarship that provided funding for young Jewish refugee scholars. IU Bloomington’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu, a fraternity with strong Jewish ties, sponsored Remak upon his arrival to the United States. Remak eventually attained a master’s degree from IU in 1937. After receiving his PhD from the University of Chicago, he returned to IU as a full-time professor for the Department of German in 1948. From there, Remak went on to play an instrumental role in the founding of two other departments with which he would remain actively involved – the Department of Comparative Literature and West European Studies founded in 1949 and 1966, respectively. He would serve as chairman for the Department of German during the summer of 1962, for the Department of Comparative Literature intermittently between 1954 and 1963, and for West European Studies from 1966-1969. Another administrative role that Remak filled during his tenure at IU was as Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Faculties from 1969-1974.

Though Remak officially retired from IU in 1987, he remained active at the university. For one, Remak volunteered to teach undergraduate honors courses from 1987 until his health began to fail in 2005. Additionally, it was following his official retirement that Remak was appointed director of the Institute for Advanced Study from 1988-1994 and again as interim director from 1997-1998.

In addition to his active involvement as a teacher and administrator, Remak was also a prolific scholar in the field of comparative literature. As such, he published numerous articles, chapters and books on a variety of topics including the modern German novel and novella, the history and principles of Comparative Literature as a discipline, Franco-German literary and cultural relations, European Romanticism, German and European Realism, and student movements and countercultures of the 1960s and 1970s.

Throughout his life, Remak was committed to serving IU and the Bloomington community at large. As testament to his exemplary services as a teacher, administrator, and scholar Remak received a number of awards including the Lieber Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1962; IU’s Distinguished Service Award in 1987; and the prestigious statewide Sagamore of the Wabash; to name just a few examples. Professor Remak passed away on February 12, 2009.

The Collection

The collection – comprised of 73 boxes – contains papers spanning the years 1914 to 2010. It is organized into the following series: Administrative; Teaching; Research and publications; Professional activities; Correspondence; and Chronological. While it would be difficult to address all of the interesting facets of this collection, I will outline a few highlights that make these papers truly unique:

Letter from student. "Making trails and moving and feeling the Earth beneath us is what life is about--you, Professor, leave humble footprints wherever you go, whether running, playing tennis, or teaching."
Letter from student. “Making trails and moving and feeling the Earth beneath us is what life is about–you, Professor, leave humble footprints wherever you go, whether running, playing tennis, or teaching.”

Remak’s correspondence: For Remak, writing correspondence was an art. Whether to current or former students, university faculty and administrators, or scholars from around the world, Remak’s letters were eloquent expressions of his keen wit, charm, and energetic personality. I was constantly impressed by the sheer effort that Remak placed into his relationships with others, as evidenced by his correspondence. The collection contains a plethora of student files filled with letters that trace the path of young undergraduates into their lives beyond school – getting jobs, having families, perhaps becoming professors themselves. Remak’s correspondence is also reflective of the many changes that have taken place at IU, and the individuals responsible for those changes, which brings me to my next highlight.

A glimpse into 68 years of IU’s history: From the year Remak completed his master’s degree in 1937, to his final year teaching in 2005 – Remak spent roughly 68 years of his life being involved with IU, in some form or another. That’s nearly 1/3 of the time that IU has existed as an institution. As such, this collection reveals much about IU’s history. To provide just a few examples, there are materials pertaining to Alfred Kinsey and the founding of the Kinsey Institute; correspondence and clippings on Bobby Knight’s controversial firing from IU; correspondence between Remak and Herman B Wells; and clippings, research notes, and course materials pertaining to Remak’s interest in the student revolts and faculty unrest of the 1960s and 1970s. Remak’s interest in the latter extended beyond IU to student revolts and faculty unrest in other parts of the United States and the world, bringing me to my next point.

The teaching and research files provide evidence that Remak continually brought the world to IU and IU to the world: Remak’s prodigious research and constant involvement in communities of both domestic and international scholars allowed him to educate generations of IUs students on a variety of global topics such as “Masterpieces of German Literature,” “The Age of Goethe,” “Franco-German Literary and Cultural Relations,” “Student Movements in Western Europe and the United States,” to name a few. The collection contains dozens of Remak’s course syllabi, lesson plans, and materials on these and other topics. In addition to bringing the world to IU, Remak also helped IU students make connections abroad. Files detailing Remak’s involvement with several study abroad programs are contained within the collection. Lastly, many of Remak’s research notes, monograph and article drafts, as well as conference presentation papers are available in this collection, serving as yet another example of Professor Remak’s dedication to his domestic and international scholarly communities.

It is obvious from the paper trail he left behind that Henry H. H. Remak was well-loved by just about everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. Though I cannot count myself among those lucky enough to have met him in person, I feel like I have come to know him well. In me, Remak has gained yet another admirer, and I am sure that anyone else who has the chance to peruse this collection will be as easily charmed.

For more information, please contact the IU Archives.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful staff at the Archives for making my time as a processor there an enjoyable and educational experience! In particular, Dina Kellams, who was my supervisor, and Phil Bantin both encouraged and assisted me in many ways while I had the pleasure of working for them.

“A Pure Artist Working for the Good of the Cause”: The Creative Endeavors of Henry H. H. Remak

Henry H. H. Remak as "Servant Henry," 1997

Today, I came to an alarming realization – I have been working on the papers of Professor Emeritus Henry H. H. Remak (1916-2009) for almost exactly a year!  During that time I truly feel that I have come to know this professor-extraordinaire, a man who spent almost sixty years at Indiana University teaching, administering, and being a delightful friend and mentor to those who knew him.  The most recent update I have to offer you – in this, my 9th, processing blog about the Remak collection – is that the teaching files have been arranged!  Contained within this 12-box series are the course materials from over 60 courses that Remak taught at IU in the Departments of Germanic Studies, West European Studies, Comparative Literature, and Honors.  This series also contains correspondence between Remak and many of his former students, as well as student papers and autobiographies.  In addition, there are files on several of Remak’s visiting professorships, including the Fulbright Award he received in 1962, which enabled him to conduct a course on Faust at the University of Lille in France.

A personal poem by Remak, 1997

Through my blog posts over this past year, I have attempted to highlight some of the most fascinating, interesting, even touching aspects of this man’s life and work as viewed through his personal and professional papers. In doing so, I have often focused on Remak’s remarkable talents as a teacher, but for this post I’d like to focus on something a bit different and share with you two lesser known facts about Professor Remak.  The first is that Remak was a poet, not just at heart but in practice.  He would often author short compositions to honor a colleague’s accomplishments or in the event of a retirement or death.  Included in the collection here at the IU Archives are poems written to colleagues Dan Zaffarano, Charles Jelavich, and Paul Gebhard.  Remak even attempted to have one of his poems published – a lament written in 1965 for politician Adlai Stevenson.

The second lesser known fact is that Remak took great pleasure in yet another creative endeavor – acting.  During his tenure at IU, he appeared in a total of seven IU operas, the last of these being the 1997 IU Opera & Ballet Theater’s production of La Traviata.  From Vice Chancellor and Dean of Faculties and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study to the ever-humble “Servant Henry,” Remak was absolutely delighted to join the cast.  Did “Servant Henry” sing, you might be wondering?  Unfortunately, no – a decision, which Henry jokingly assesses as: “‘very narrow-minded of them.'”  When asked about his experience during an interview for the Indiana Alumni Magazine, Professor Remak reflects:

I was engaged as one of four waiters.  Then we were upgraded to four butlers.  And then, in the second week of rehearsals, the stage manager upgraded me to head butler.  So I told my university colleagues, ‘It took me a week to get promoted in the opera, and look how long it took me to get promoted in the university.’

Contained within the collection are clippings about the opera, programs, rehearsal schedules, photos, and detailed descriptions of “Servant Henry’s” duties.  In a mischievous caption added to his “Rehearsal Schedule for Supernumeraries,” he underlines the term supernumeraries (i.e. extras) and writes: “that means: way above any other opera participants.”  At the bottom of the page, in his characteristically witty fashion, he adds:

Puschi – PLEASE tell the Press and TV  as well as Radio that I will not give any interviews about my skyrocketing career because I am a pure artist working for the good of the cause, not for  fame. – Henri Remac (please note my real – my artistic – name).

From browsing these files, it is apparent that Professor Remak – or Henri Remac, if you will – put forth as much care and devotion into performing as an extra in the opera or composing a few lines for a friend, as he did into his professional activities.  Perceiving Henry Remak as an aspiring actor and poet, as well as a teacher and scholar adds yet another layer of enjoyment to this rich and multifaceted collection.  Please do not hesitate to contact us at the IU Archives if you are interested in learning more about the Remak collection.

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.