Indiana University Northwest has had a relatively short history. We have prided ourselves as a public institution at which students could obtain an education of high quality. In making this image a reality, one faculty member made a historic and distinctive contribution. His nane was Max Putzel, and it is fitting that we acknowledge his accomplishments.
Born in Nurenberg, Germany in 1925, Max Putzel came to the United States in 1938. The family, which consisted of the parents, Max, and one sister, Elizabeth, settled in a suburb of St. Louis, Clayton, where the two children attended school. From 1943 to 1947, he served in the United States Army, first in the infantry, and later in the Counter Intelligence Corp in England, France, and Germany. Following his military service, he became a student at the University of Chicago, where he would go on th earn three degrees: the B.A. in General Studies, and the M.A. and the Ph.D. in German languages and literatures. Max was a distinguished undergraduate, receiving a number of honors, among them election to Phi Beta Kappa, and the David Blair MacLaughlin Prize for the best essay in the Social Sciences and Humanities.
During his years at the University of Chicago, he held a number of appointments: as Resident Head of one of the undergraduate houses on the campus, as Instructor of German in the College, and later, as Assistant and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies. When he accepted a position at Indiana University Northwest in 1965, he brought with him considerable experience in teaching and administration. During his first four years at IUN, Max served as Assistant Dean, charged with the responsibility for a number of student service offices, including Admissions, Registrar, Student Activities, Financial Aids and Junior Division. In addition, as Assistant professor of German he taught language classes, and was appointed Chair of Germanic Studies, a position which he held until 1971.
When he returned to full time teaching in 1969, Max launched the Honors Program, a series of interdisciplinary courses designed to provide challenging experiences for our honor students. It is this contribution for curricular innovation which has never been matched on our campus. The Honors Program became a natural expression of his intellectual drive and initiative. It afford him the chance to be creative and to shape challenging learning experiences. Although his training was in German, and it was in field of 19th century German literature that he did research and publication, his desire to explore other fields was as intense as it was joyful. When Max became interested in a subject, he was indefatigable. He not only read about it, he audited classes at the University of Chicago, and he traveled to learn about places first hand. It was evident to his colleagues that he was qualified by temperament and training to create courses which represented a wide and exciting range of academic topics and disciplines.
The sheer number of courses he created is in itself impressive, as is the fact that he was in many ways a forerunner of innovations which we now view as essential components in higher education. Long before the international dimension became a trend in higher education, Max designed courses which enlarged student perspectives by introducing them to the civilizations of Greece, Russia, China, Japan, and the Middle East. For some of these, Max actually traveled abroad to prepare slides for use in his classes. In the organization of the lectures, he was imaginative and resourceful, enlisting as specialists lecturers from various disciplines and departments, both within and outside Indiana University Northwest. Over a period of two decades, he continued to design courses on topics which were not part of the traditional curriculum. He created interdisciplinary experiences before they became fashionable. Some of these explored subjects as diverse as Technology and Change, The City, Television, The Problem of "Time" in the Arts and Sciences. His accomplishments as a teacher were prodigious in both their diversity and quality. His work did not go unnoticed. In 1971, he received the Distinguished Teaching Award, and in the same year he was promoted to Full Professor. The Indiana University Northwest Alumni Association chose him to receive their Outstanding Faculty Recognition Award in 1983.
But coordinating the Honors Program was only one facet of his multifaceted teaching career. In addition to the traditional German language courses which he taught, he created a course on German opera. He also taught a course in the history of the theatre, and even coached the cast of the IUN production of Cabaret. Given his passion for the arts, that Max engaged himself in theatre and music is not surprising; however, creating course materials represents a level of engagement and enthusiasm not ordinarily seen.
As many popular teachers do, Max created a following. When he began to teach comparative literature courses which examined genres like science fiction, detective, mystery and horror, students came and were captivated. These areas of study also became a part of his remarkable repertoire.
His students described him as kind, cultured, endearing, and above all, amazingly knowledgeable about many fields. From the comments which students made about him over the years, it can be said that he had an enduring effect on them. He gave them intellectual wings; he inspired them to explore on their own. His colleagues appreciated his sense of humor, marveled at the breadth and depth of his intellectual grasp, and enjoyed his urbane conversation. I often heard my colleagues say that Max came as close as anyone can to being a Renaissance man. When retired in 1990, our campus community lost an irreplaceable member.
Those of us who had the good future to know Max will remember how much he liked to entertain friends and students at his home. Max and his wife, Sheila, whom he married in 1973, were impeccable hosts, creating an atmosphere of charm, grace and warmth for the students and faculty who were invited to their social gatherings, which were carefully, and imaginatively planned, as well as flawlessly executed.
In 1993, Max and Sheila Putzel decided to create the Max J. Putzel Foreign Language Fund, which has been used to award prizes to outstanding students in German, and to support the teaching of foreign languages at Indiana University Northwest. I might add that Max spoke Spanish and French fluently.
Max was our colleague. We celebrate his passion for learning and excellence; we are grateful to have shared it.