||Remembering David Newhall, part two
RELEASED: Aug. 18, 2005
UPDATE: Services for David Newhall will be held
Sat. Oct. 8th, 1 p.m.
The Presbyterian Church of Danville
500 West Main Street.
DANVILLE, KYDr. David S. Newhall, Pottinger Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus, died Sunday, July 31. Here, in the second of a two-part series, friends and colleagues remember what associate dean Bill Johnston aptly described as Newhall's "sincere goodness and talents
wise counsel, and cheerful outlook on life:"
Upon arrival at Centre for my freshman year in 1967 I found out that my advisor was Dr. David Newhall. Little did I realize how fortunate I was, but it didn't take long. I also had Dr. Newhall for my freshman history class. In those days fraternities also rushed the entire first semester, and I was feeling my oats as a young man out from under the watchful eyes of his parents for the first time. Centre had just adopted a 3-2-1-u grading system. Our class was the only one to be under that system as it was discarded as a disaster immediately after our senior year; graduate schools had no idea how to deal with it. At mid-term it was parents weekend, and my parents had somehow come to the misunderstanding that a 1 was actually the highest mark you could get. I had four subjects and four 1's at mid-term and my parents were very proud. They then had the meeting of parents with advisors, and Dr. Newhall explained the actual manner in which the grading system worked. My father apparently expressed grave concern about my performance, and my mother later told me that Dr. Newhall's response was "Mr. Elliott please don't be too hard on Bobby, I must tell you that in my years on a college campus it has taken Bobby less time to adapt to college life than any other student I am aware of." He also was amazing in the classroom and made it seem as though you were living the times in the past that he was teaching about. Having Dr. Newhall as an advisor was a gift. Counting him as a friend over the last 35 years has been a blessing. Having him teach our son's first class at Centre was a comfort in that, as parents, we knew our son was under the watchful eye of a wonderful and caring man.
Bobby Elliott '71
When I was first at Centre, and first knew Dave, years and years ago, he and I (for who-knows-what reasons) were thrown together by the development/admission folks for a big, formal photo shoot at Old Centreat night, no less. We were told to dress up and show upand when we got there, we were the only subjects invitedthe stars, as it were, of the shoot. Of course, I was immensely flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as Dave, no matter the context, and always have had a secret and irrational pleasure and pride about this little incident. It was as though some of Dave's red Harvard robe had rubbed off on me.
Dave and I always shared the bond of being New Englanders, strangers in a strange land. Yet in the last few years, I got to know him better than ever before because my temporary office, during the renovation, was in Cheek Emeritus House, where Dave had his office and which he frequented nearly every day. We joked a lot since when he arrived very early in the morning, he would come in the back door, through the kitchen, and thus have to walk through "my" office (really Eric Mount's office which he was "forced" to share...), which was in fact a walk-through space with no closing doors. Dave would comment on the "status" my office implied since his office, in contrast to mine (and Eric's) was a huge front corner room with large windows. And Dave and I (and whoever was around in our little 'Jurassic Park' community) would often discuss current events, national and college-wide. Dave was not one to walk by with only a curt nodhe engaged. I cherished those times and was aware that they were specialand now I cherish them even more.
During my years at Cheek House, the Anthro/Soc Senior seminar course and a course on Native Peoples of North America, among others, were held in the 'living room' right next to Dave's officenever a closed door there either. Many times during class, I was self-conscious about what I was going on about, since I knew that Dave could hear every word and that he often listened. Sometimes, if we were lucky, he would come out of his office, smirking, and give a humorous endorsement or just a bon mot for whatever outrageous topic was being discussed. I missed Dave when I had to leave Cheek for my new office, and to my surprise and delight, he wrote me a note telling me he would miss me. Now, we will all continue to miss him terribly.
Needless to say, from the very first moment of acquaintance, I liked and respected Dave, just as everyone else didhe was a paragon of so many fine things.
—Phyllis Passariello, professor of anthropology
All I can suggest is the commencement address Dr. Newhall delivered in the year of his retirement, in which he sang a part of the Centre fight song of years before (in my student days) "Old Centre Marches Ever On," to the tune of "The Marseillaise."
Bill Breeze, special assistant to the president for endowment
I never had Dr. Newhall in class while I was at Centre, but that doesn't mean I didn't know his face. He made a point to introduce himself to me and was at many of our basketball games and concerned about the students' progress, not just in the classroom. He was our commencement speaker. It meant more to have him speakone of our own than to bring someone famous in to speak to us. He knew what we had experienced here at Centre and he had worked with us to reach our goal of graduating and preparing for life. After I returned to Centre to work, he was a common face in our Gold and White Luncheons and would stop by our offices just to say hi. I can't tell you how saddened I was when I read the email about us losing him. Centre has lost a great member of our family, one I will personally miss seeing and miss having give me wonderful words of wisdom. The Oz will be missed by all who knew him!
Wendie Austin-Robinson, softball coach and
interim women's basketball coach
A few years ago just before Christmas, I went to the barbershop to get a haircut. Newhall had arrived ahead of me and was in the chair getting his hair cut. When the barber was done, Newhall paid him. Then he reached in his wallet, pulled out another bill (a twenty, I think), handed it to the barber, and said, "Merry Christmas." Until that moment, it had never occurred to me to give a Christmas present (or any other kind of present) to the barber. Obviously, it had occurred to Dave. Because of Dave, I now do the same.
Milton Scarborough, professor emeritus of philosophy and religion
Last week I met with Janene Cromis, a '98 graduate who'd studied in Strasbourg with me. While she never had Dr. Newhall, she said he was key in attracting her to Centre. As a prospective student, she'd sat in on one of his classes and been greatly impressed. Then, once she returned to her home in Memphis, she received a hand-written note from him. She said it was so thoughtful and kind, that it made her decide Centre was where she wanted to be.
Milton Reigelman, Cowan Professor of English
When David and I shared an office suite last year he would come in every day with a different intellectual issue to bat around. His curiosity and work ethic made him incredibly bright and fun to work with.
David Anderson, Blazer Associate Professor of Economics
I knew Dave Newhall beginning in 1967 and counted him as a valuable colleague and good friend. I have an amateur's interest in history, especially military history, and Dave was generous enough to humor me in long discussions on some topic of my choice. Especially memorable to me are our discussions of Napoleon's battles. More importantly, Dave was my picture of the best of Centre professors. Students respected him for their intellectual growth, upon which he insisted, and simultaneously genuinely shared with him a mutual affection. Our community will wait many years for another David Newhall.
Marshall Wilt, professor of physics emeritus
Cheek House, or "Jurassic Park" as Dave called it, is a very lonely place these days. He preceded me in retirement by six or more years; and even after I joined him in these offices, other obligations, trips, etc. prevented me from matching his hours here as he stayed involved in scholarly research and writing to the very end. Whenever I spent time here, however, I could usually count on a Newhall bonus--the appearance of his face at my door or a stop at my desk as he passed through to his office space. He might chuckle over the latest delicious quotation or amazing historical nugget that he had uncovered, or we might discuss his or Edna's recent health problems and doctor appointments, or we might catch up on each other's far-flung families, or we might share information about visiting with other retired colleagues who were hospitalized or confined at home, or we might talk about our latest trip to France or to one of his French historians' meetings, or we might talk about his research or mine. These continuing conversations were preceded by a long and treasured friendship. We arrived at Centre the same year, taught in the same division (each serving as the other's chair for a time), shared in the founding of Centre's Phi Beta Kappa chapter, sang in the same church choir, shared rides home, and at times even reminisced about our days as seminary students (he was once one of those too). On the last Thursday of his life, he and I were part of a conversation in Cheek House that brought together several people, including two professors from other schools, to discuss how desegration happened at our respective institutions. At one level, he was for me a giant among my colleagues and a true Centre institution; I stood in awe of him (and not because of his "Great Oz" exterior). At another level, ours was a friendship that could move beyond the exchange of chuckles to the sharing of anguish and anxiety at a very personal way. When I learned that he had specified that I would share responsibility for his memorial service (now scheduled for October 8), and when Edna and their impressive family (some of whom both Truly and I have taught) asked me to accompany them and preside at the private committal service at the cemetary soon after his death, I felt that I had received the highest honor one could imagine.
Eric Mount, Nelson D. and Mary McDowell Rodes
Professor Emeritus of Religion
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