As the news of Don Schilling’s retirement has spread throughout Denisonia, thousands of former students have had fair cause to recall ways the (now) professor emeritus of history challenged and shaped their minds—and not just with regard to modern European history. In his 41 years of service to the college, Schilling also served as department chair, associate provost, dean of first-year students, chair of the faculty, and director of a Denison-based program in the 1980s that helped college-bound black South African students prepare for American culture and education.
Schilling has been a mainstay on the Granville scene as well, and the Rotary Club of Granville recently recognized his contributions with the organization’s highest honor, the Allen Avery Service Above Self Award. The presentation featured moving tributes from several community members, and among them was Cathy Dollard ’88, one of Schilling’s former students and his colleague in the History Department since 1996. We are pleased to share the following excerpt of her remarks…
It is not just the quantity of Don’s service that is impressive. Though note well – it is impressive. But as all who have ever worked with Don in any capacity know, the quality of his work is outstanding. Don’s thoughtful and fair approach to the work of the college has been matched by a tireless work ethic, insightful analysis, and a desire to make the college a better place. After word of Don’s retirement began to spread, countless colleagues have asked, how can we replace Don’s wisdom? We can’t – but we have all learned from it and the work of the place will be much the better if we continue to strive to follow his example.
Don is also a gifted teacher. Students have flocked to his courses, which have spanned the range of Modern European History. His survey courses on European and African history have been dynamic and memorable. His upper-level courses on Nazi Germany, World War II, Europe at its Zenith, and most notably, the Holocaust in History, have had a tremendous impact on generations of Denison students. The Holocaust course, I suspect, has been both Don’s most challenging course to develop and the most rewarding course to teach. In the academic world, Don is at the forefront of a vital generation of European historians who have created a collegial network dedicated to bringing the history of genocide to the classroom – bringing to undergraduates evidence and analysis of the worst of what humans can create is no easy task. Don does it with grace and thoughtfulness; ultimately this most difficult course serves to inspire. This is no small achievement. His own recent scholarship has embraced the history of the Holocaust, linking it to local history in a thoughtful and thorough analysis of what residents of Granville and Licking County could have known about genocide in Europe.
This bridge to the local community has been an essential part of Don’s career. He has been a core member of the Ohio Academy of Historians. He has been an enthusiastic contributor to the work of the Granville Historical Society, volunteering countless hours of service and acting in leadership roles, most recently as president during its expansion.
Don is a community guy – that’s why we’re here today. From the Granville Tennis League to the Concert Choir, to serving as the voice of the Denison Women’s Basketball team, to Little League coaching (the list goes on and on) he has been an unforgettable and generous presence in the life of both town and gown. As you know, Don and Mary will be retiring in Williamsburg, VA. It was said at an event honoring Don that “you can take Don out of Granville, but you can’t take Denison and Granville out of Don.” I’d like to expand on that a bit: we might not meet Don on our daily walks thru campus and town, but Don’s presence in the life of Denison and Granville will not go away. For each of us who seeks to link town and gown, and who have experienced the delights of the interconnectedness of our community, will be walking on the Schilling path.