Meredith McClain, PhDPicture of Dr. McClainWelcomeAdobe Garden

The Southwest Center for German Studies at Texas Tech University

The launching pad for promotion and marketing of
TTU German, 1981- 2008

Meredith McClain, Ph.D.,
Founding Director and Accounts Manager, 1981 - 2008

A Short History

Dr. McClain With the Quanah Parker Family
Hedwig's Hill House, Symbol of the
Southwest Center for German Studies,
Located at the National Ranching Heritage Center

In the early years of my career at Texas Tech University (starting in the fall of 1976), I was, by assignment and inclination, devoted to the prospect of building strong undergraduate and M.A. German programs, following the pedagogical example set at Tech for decades by Professor Ted Alexander. Among all the German programs in Texas, only my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, and Texas Tech University in Lubbock offered annual performances of classical dramas, performed in German at the AATG (American Association of Teachers of German) conventions. These annual presentations highlighted the immersion atmosphere of "making German a lively and real activity of communication in action." This was the unspoken pedagogical philosophy of Professor Alexander and his protégé, Dr. Tom I. Bacon. This attention to the quality of student programs, underscored by the TTU summer program in Vienna, Austria, was what brought me to Lubbock and what kept me here for 35 years. Becoming the second owner of the Wilber I. Robinson adobe, designed in 1935 by Olive Holden, the first wife of Curry Holden, and built near the campus, sealed my fate and rooted me completely in Lubbock.

German Dancers in Mercantile
"Who's in charge of the money?"
German Dancers photographed in Cogdell's Store
at the National Ranching Heritage Center

By the 1980s I was the faculty sponsor of a most unusual student organization, the Texas Tech German Dancers (see photogallery and videos). Although the administration’s opinion of such activities as the German play, the summer program in Vienna and the German Dancers was either non-existent or quietly suspect, there was one student in my German class who thought this was THE approach to language teaching and learning. Her name was Teddy Cantine, now Dorothy G. Secrest, daughter of Helen DeWitt Jones. One day in July 1981, Teddy stopped me on the parking lot in front of the Foreign Language building and said she wanted me to have my own account at Tech to foster my German programs, otherwise not easily funded by the university accounts. She asked how much I needed to open such an account and when I said I had no idea, she wrote me a check for $5,000, which was deposited into a new TTU account and the Southwest Center for German Studies became a virtual reality. In addition $1,576 was moved from an account in the German department, per Teddy's request, into the fund for the Southwest Center for German Studies, by the chair of Germanic and Slavic Languages. This transfer, labeled "Application for the Establishment of an Endowed Account," documents the attempt of an administrator to commandeer my personal goal by aiming the purpose away from student program-building in the direction of an endowed professorship. My requested correction (handwritten into the document) changing "will become" to "may become a professorship," shows clearly what I was learning in my early years in the Tech tenure track about watchful shepherding of my own programs and my own accounts.

In addition to Teddy's $6,576 total donation, I solicited additional private funds from friends and officially opened the Southwest Center for German Studies' Accounts with a beginning total of $7,805.50 principal in the Fund. Quarterly dividends, generated by the principal, accrue to the revenue in the operating budget account. Later, in partnership with Mrs. Georgia Mae Smith Ericson, I opened the Hank Smith Scholarship Account within the Southwest Center to fund scholarships for students of German.

In 1983, I passed the tenure review and was promoted to Associate Professor of German. In those days, this was not merely nor simply the normal, expected route. I was the first woman, among many employed by Germanic and Slavic Languages, to ever actually attain tenure. I am pleased to note that now, so many years later, not as full Professor, but as Senior Professor in the German unit, I played an active role in hiring two outstanding women colleagues, Dr Ingrid Fry and Dr. Stefanie Borst, both of whom achieved tenure and promotion. I negotiated the hiring of another outstanding woman graduate of our German Masters program, Wanda Merchant, as Instructor in the TTU Center in Quedlinburg 2007 - 2011. Another of our successful women graduate students, now teaching in the German Unit, is Dr. Marlene Selker. She has been the faculty leader of the TTU groups studying in Quedlinburg in the summers of 2010 and 2011.

German Dancers at Ranching & Heritage Center
The German Dancers Performing at
the National Ranching Heritage Center

Even after decades of successful outreach programs in German initiated by Professor Alexander, including puppet plays, Samstagschule and Stammtisch, recruiting students and advertising German to the public in Lubbock are absolutely necessary to population of our German classes. It was nothing short of a marketing miracle that Randy Kirk arrived at TTU asking who might sponsor the German Dancers, he planned to organize. With Professor Alexander’s blessing and my help when needed, Randy proved his genius. Modest beginnings turned into a troupe of enthusiastic and committed student dancers who traveled annually to the buckle of the Texas-German belt: the Wurstfest in New Braunfels, where they were received by huge crowds offering enthusiastic standing ovations. Randy and his dancers were ready to strut their stuff in the Vaterland and I saw the perfect opportunity for them to represent America at a festival In Krefeld, Germany. With funding from the Southwest Center for German Studies' accounts and additional tour funds raised, Randy and I launched the first of three tours of Germany, placing the “Texas Tech German Dancers” on the stage in Krefeld, Germany, amidst a major celebration of 300 years of Germans in America. Although about 700 demonstrators launched attacks near the stage where then Vice President George Bush was speaking, everybody else thought the German dancers in Black Forest outfits on a side stage, performing to a wildly enthusiastic audience, were, of course, Germans. (See text of the Vice President’s Krefeld speech.)

Six scrapbooks and a splendid video of the first tour documenting the TTU German Dancers' career are stored in the Southwest Collection. Their annual tours throughout Texas promoted the department, university and city in very positive ways. The second "Germany Tour" in 1985, advertising the 1986 sesquicentennial year of the Republic of Texas, funded by American Airlines in the air, Mercedes Benz on the ground and executed under the banner "Texas State German Dancers" designated by governor Mark White, was another peak experience in international representation of Texas and Texas Tech throughout West Germany.

Various updates in Umlaut, the newsletter of the Southwest Center for German Studies, reviewed important milestones, such as official designations for study abroad and the launching of important public events.

Surveying the Land & Looking to the Horizon

Quedlinburg Center on Hohe Strasse
Students in Front of the TTU Quedlinburg Center

In August 2007, with four semester-long programs at the “Texas Tech University Center in Germany” founded in 2005 in Quedlinburg, Germany, behind me, I could survey the successes of the pedagogical experiment , which were nothing short of amazing and predict necessary changes for the future. We needed to expand from only beginning classes to intermediate students of German who could participate in internships. Plagued by health issues, I requested of the chair of my department, CMLL, that he allow me to hire an instructor to help build the established TTU Center in Quedlinburg. The only offer was for me to enter phased retirement and donate most of my salary for the new position, a contribution over the next three and 1/2 years of $140,000 which I made. Thus, in the fall semester of 2007 the program opened in Germany with two levels and a strong and devoted teaching team. Before my "real" retirement at age 70 in January 2012, as the TTU Center in Germany was closed, I had already assigned stewardship of the Southwest Center for German Studies accounts to my valued colleague, Dr. Stefanie Borst.

Children Enjoying the Puppenspiel
Children at the Weihnachtsfest
Enjoying the Puppenspiel

Dr. Borst has proven herself to be a program-builder of great ability, enthusiasm and influence. Among her many contributions to the current German program at Tech, I mention the annual German Weihnachtsfest (Christmas Fest), which she organizes for 500 - 600 K-6 students in the International Cultural Center. The students, their parents and teachers look forward each December to this gigantic salute to German culture, history, music and baked goods. There is even a German-language puppet theater where Dr. Borst's students perform "Rotkäppchen", Little Red Riding Hood, offering the softened American "Happy Ending." It is great to see the original folding puppet stage, built at the Robinson adobe by Professor W.L. Ducker, head of petrolium engineering, and outfitted with a professionally sewn carrying case for annual trips with the German dancers to New Braunfels, to be in excellent repair and affording audiences such pleasure.... und auf Deutsch!

Bringing Germany to the Llano Estacado in the new Millenium

It is with great pleasure that I look back on the various programs, which SW Center funds, entrusted to me at the beginning of my career by Teddy Secrest and grown through donations from supporters of my programs over the years, allowed me to undertake. Certainly the most important of these was "The Karl May International Symposium" held in downtown Lubbock and on the Tech campus for six days in September of 2000. The event's six record-breaking aspects included:

Dr. McClain with the Quanah Parker Family
Dr. McClain (seated left front row),
With the Quanah Parker Family

#1. Attendance, including especially international participants

#2. Duration, including an additional weeklong bus tour of the Llano Estacado and New Mexico

#3. Special Events, including the opening of a traveling exhibit still moving about Texas and a copy currently circulating in Germany, plus the dedication of the Karl May Archive in the Southwest Collections

#4. Publications, including a German-language collection of selected symposium papers and a German-language exhibit catalog, both sponsored and published by the Karl May Society.

#5. Financing, especially relevant to this report on the Southwest Center for German Studies, because it may have been the first major symposium held at Texas Tech not to have requested funding at the college level. Matching funds were negotiated with Germany and the office of the Provost (in-kind funding). All bookkeeping (for a $80,000+ project) was managed through the SW Center's account by me, the account manager.

#6. Advertisement of TTU, the symposium was reported on by The Wall Street Journal, and on the front page.

#7. Promotion of Friendship, through the great blessing offered at the opening ceremony of the Karl May Symposium for the German guests by the great grandson of Quanah Parker, who, arrived in full headdress, along with six members of the Comanche Nation to be our special guests from Oklahoma.

Dr. McClain With the Quanah Parker Family
Dr. McClain, Wearing her Medal, in the Company
of Students & Texas Tech Provost Bob Smith
at the Quedlinburg Center

On the basis of these "transcultural", entrepreneurial, pragmatic and scholarly activities, funded through the Southwest Center for German Studies at Texas Tech, I was awarded the two highest German recognitions available to an American. Directly following 9-11, on October 6, 2001, I had the great honor in Düsseldorf, Germany, to receive the Lucius Clay Medal, which, beginning in 1980, has been awarded annually to one recipient by the Association of German-American Clubs for the promotion of friendship and understanding between our countries. The other two women to receive this medal in 32 years of annual awarding are: Elanor Dulles (deceased) and in 2009 Dr. Angela Merkel, current German Chancellor. In 2002 the German government awarded me in the cross of merit at a ceremony in Houston for promotion of understanding and diplomatic relations between America and Germany.

According to the directives for foreign language pedagogy in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the German unit of the Dept. of CMLL at TTU has been quietly on the right "transcultural, translingual” track for decades:

From the MLA Article "Foreign Languages and Higher Education:
New Structures for a Changed World"

The Goal: Translingual and Transcultural Competence

"The language major should be structured to produce a specific outcome: educated speakers who have deep translingual and transcultural competence. Advanced language training often seeks to replicate the competence of an educated native speaker, a goal that postadolescent learners rarely reach. The idea of translingual and transcultural competence, in contrast, places value on the ability to operate between languages. Students are educated to function as informed and capable interlocutors with educated native speakers in the target language. They are also trained to reflect on the world and themselves through the lens of another language and culture. They learn to comprehend speakers of the target language as members of foreign societies and to grasp themselves as Americans--that is, as members of a society that is foreign to others. They also learn to relate to fellow members of their own society who speak languages other than English."

After 5 1/2 years of  operation of the TTU Center in Quedlinburg, Germany, a model for immersion foreign language learning has been proven by all who experienced it there. Furthermore at a time when German is declining at major universities across America, the enrollment of German at Texas Tech increased by 20% over the past four years, thanks in large part to energized, returning students from Quedlinburg.

Rounding out my career as a program-builder, I am proud to conclude by reporting that all unexpected surpluses (an amount in excess of $22,000) which accrued in the three accounts in Quedlinburg are to be deposited into the existing accounts of the Southwest Center for German Studies to enrich the programs and activities of the German Unit at Texas Tech University into the future.

“Herzlichen Dank, liebe Teddy und an alle in Texas und in Deutschland, die --finanziell sowie geistig-- dazu beigetragen haben!”


Luciys Clay Medal--Message on Reverse
The message on the reverse of the Lucius Clay Medal

Leading the Charge

SWC Logo

The genesis of the Southwest Center for German Studies was sparked when the daughter of a devoted West Texas philanthropist wanted to support Dr. McClain's innovative approaches to student learning and engagement. Her generous, spontaneous offer of the initial financial commitment launched the Center from which German-Texan outreach projects emanated steadily, connecting into Lubbock, throughout the Llano Estacado, into the state and over to Germany.

A Perpetual Mission

Most donors desire their contributions to have lasting positive effects—renewable benefits that continue to embody the original vision. All those who have contributed to the Southwest Center for German Studies over the years can know in sure confidence that the mission has been met, many times over, and an almost endless realm of potentials awaits in the future. After decades under Dr. McClain's care, the Center will continue to support endeavors at Texas Tech University as a permanent asset for the German Program, in the capable hands of the next generation of innovative faculty.