I’m sorry to learn that my first college History professor, Arthur Dudden, died nearly a year ago on October 14, 2009. AHA’s Perspectives has a very nice obituary this month by Barbara Bennett Peterson, University of Hawai’i, emerita. From her obituary:
Arthur Power Dudden, 1921–2009, was the national founding president of the Fulbright Association in 1976, Fulbright executive director 1980–84, and a respected professor of history and American studies at Bryn Mawr College. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 26, 1921, to Arthur Clifford and Kathleen (Bray) Dudden. He grew up in Detroit, graduated from Wayne State University with a BA in 1942, and served in World War II in the Mediterranean with the U.S. Navy. Following his discharge in 1945, he attended the University of Michigan and obtained a MA in 1947 and a PhD in history in 1950. Thus credentialed, he accepted a teaching position at the City College of New York for the summer and a full-time faculty position at Bryn Mawr in 1950. . . At Bryn Mawr he was the Fairbank Professor of Humanities 1989–92, the Katharine E. McBride Professor of History 1992–95 and 1998–99.
. . . . . . . .
He was chosen a Senior Fulbright Scholar to Denmark in 1959–60 and to western Europe in 1992. He was the president of the Fellows in American Studies 1960–61. Dudden was treasurer in 1968 and then executive director of the American Studies Association (ASA) 1969–72, enlarging this organization to attract more minority and women scholars. He led the first national ASA convention in Washington, D.C., in 1971 and organized five worldwide ASA conferences during the bicentennial. In 1991 he was honored with the national Bode-Pearson Award for splendid lifetime achievement in service to the field of American studies.
Peterson’s obit doesn’t say when he died, but Bryn Mawr’s website says it was last October 14. I’m sorry not to have learned about it until now. I think of him especially at this time of the year, and of his gentle manner and seemingly limitless patience with a rather quiet (if not quite sullen) discussion section of Western Civ. he ran twice a week in the fall semester of my Freshman year. He was already in his mid-60s when I met him. I was one of the few “Chatty Cathys” in the class, and I still remember the moment Professor Dudden took notice of me as a serious student of history. In that warm, dusty old room in Goodhart Hall, I answered a question he put out to the class about the Carolingian Empire and rather seemed to like what I said–I remember how he fiddled with the volume of his old-fashioned hearing aid, with its wires attached to a little transistor in his shirt pocket. He seemed to take me seriously, so I took myself seriously. I’m sure that moment is what turned me into a historian.
We got to know each other a little bit. I told him about my interest in either journalism or the law, and he encouraged me to submit book reviews to the Philadelphia Inquirer–as a college Freshman! (I never did that, but I was impressed by his confidence.) He let me write a research paper in lieu of the final exam for Western Civ–about poor little St. William of Norwich. I didn’t know if I would major in History or English, but because I got an “A” on my paper and an A in Western Civ and an A- in my English Lit course, I decided to major in History. The last time I saw him was in 1996, at a retirement party in honor of my advisor, Richard S. Dunn, at the University of Pennsylvania. He had changed very little over the previous decade, and (amazingly enough) remembered me quite well and seemed pleased to hear about my professional progress. I really enjoyed our chance meeting.
I’m sure there are hundreds if not thousands of stories like mine in the memories of former students and colleagues from a career that spanned more than fifty years. Thanks, Professor Dudden. You lived a great life.
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