Oktoberfest highlights BW’s ‘German Wallace’ roots

Despite role in school’s heritage, future German offerings in doubt


Autumn at BW brings all kinds of fun events and activities.

One of the most anticipated events each year is the German Club’s Oktoberfest.

Held in the Student Activities Center, the event is free and open to the public.

University Relations
University Relations

German music, food, and dancing are all staples of this fun night, which brings in both a good-sized student and faculty population.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from Oktoberfest, though, is getting in touch with Baldwin Wallace’s German heritage.

The university was founded on strong German roots, says German professor Dr. Steve Hollender.

“German is a very important part of BW’s identity,” he said, “Back before Baldwin Wallace was created when it was German Wallace College and Baldwin University, there were many German immigrants living in Berea who played a huge role in shaping BW into its current state.”

Hollender said the early Methodist preachers in the area delivered sermons in German, and the Germans who settled here in the nineteenth century were some of the first to condemn the practice of slavery in their newspaper.

He said that in his classes, his students make posters of important German figures to hang around the classroom—perhaps in homage to the culture and ideas that played such an important role in the school’s founding.

A big way that BW keeps its German roots alive is through the German major and minor, which provide courses in language, literature, and culture.

While the demographic of German majors is lower compared to other majors here at BW, it is no less important to creating a holistic liberal arts experience.

There is one problem though, in keeping with tradition in the future: come May 2020, Dr. Hollender is retiring after 29 years as a professor.

As the only German professor at BW, this will more than likely bring about the end of the major.

For current majors and minors, he says, an adjunct will most likely be hired to help those students finish their course material and graduate, but he does not foresee this option for incoming freshmen.

With the conclusion of the major, the faculty-led seminar in Germany will also likely come to an end after the current academic year, an opportunity that will be missed by many students.

The campus’s German Club is also in jeopardy. While Hollender is the current advisor, he expressed his hope of the chance the club could continue without him.

“German Club has the potential to continue, as long as they can find another advisor willing to take on my role,” he said, “They don’t have to be a foreign language professor, so I certainly think its possible.”

From a student perspective, the hope this club will continue is alive as well. Yasmine White, a junior German Education major and treasurer of German Club, expressed her love for events like Oktoberfest, ones that the German Club plays a big role in.

“I’m really glad I’ve gotten to participate in Oktoberfest three years in a row,” she said, “I hope we can continue to have it in years to come. German culture is something I find really interesting and worthwhile, so I hope we can continue the legacy of the school’s founders.”