Indiana University Northwest Text

Indiana University Logo


Rhiman Rotz, associate professor of history, died on September 23, 2001 at the age of 58, thus ending thirty years of dedicated service to Indiana University Northwest. Rhiman was born in Indianapolis where he spent his early years before moving to Muncie. After graduation from Muncie Central High School, Rhiman attended Wabash College, from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1965. Having won a Woodrow Wilson fellowship, Rhiman did his graduate work at Princeton University, studying medieval history under the renowned historian Joseph Strayer. Rhiman first came to the Calumet Region while he was completing his dissertation and he briefly taught part-time at IUN. After he received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1970, Rhiman joined the faculty of North Carolina State University, but he must have liked his experience at IUN because when a full-time position opened up here in 1971 he left North Carolina State to become a member of the IUN history department. In the early 1980s, as a result of what he called his "mid-life crisis," Rhiman decided to enter law school. Beginning with night classes in Chicago and then taking a leave of absence and transferring to Valparaiso University Law school, he received his J.D. from Valparaiso in 1985. He served as law clerk to the Honorable James B. Moran, judge of the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois, but when the clerkship was over, Rhiman decided to return to his first love, history, and resumed his position at IUN.

Rhiman's early research focused on urban uprisings in late medieval towns and he published several distinguished articles on that subject. Joseph Strayer recognized Rhiman's distinction by inviting him to write several articles on medieval class structure for the Dictionary of Medieval History. One reviewer cited Rhiman's articles as among the best in this multi-volume reference work. After his law studies, Rhiman turned his research to the impact of western law on colonial countries, publishing an article on the impact of Dutch law on Indonesia in the late nineteenth century. At his death he was studying the role of law in the colonization of Zimbabwe.

As the pattern of his research suggests, Rhiman's interests early on transcended his graduate school specialty in late medieval urban social history. He became convinced that the most important intellectual task that confronts us today is to understand the world as a whole and he transformed himself from the narrow specialist that American graduate schools produce to a generalist of astonishing range. From the beginning of his career at IUN, he taught courses in Islamic history and culture. Later he developed a class in the history of Africa, studying African history at the London School of Economics and traveling to Africa twice to gain first-hand knowledge of that vast continent. Since 1994 he had been a member of the President's Council on International Programs and he also served as IUN's liaison to International Programs. Rhiman was at his happiest when he was breaking down stereotypes about other cultures, other religions, other peoples, other places. He was the faculty advisor to the Moslem student organization and his devotion to our Moslem students was a source of strength that was sorely missed in the aftermath of September 11. His teaching excellence was recognized in 1995 when he was inducted into FACET. He became active in that organization, serving on the FACET steering committee and the statewide selection committee.

Rhiman will be best remembered in the Faculty Organization for his work on the Calendar Committee. Rhiman made every minute count in the classroom and he thought class time was important. As chair of the Calendar Committee he achieved the no small feat of persuading, or shaming, the faculty to hold classes the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, pointing out that the Monday-Wednesday classes already lost a class on Labor Day and if they also lost one on Thanksgiving it brought them below the prescribed contact minutes for a three credit class. Rhiman taught on Tuesday-Thursdays and so he did not have classes on Wednesday. I did. When I returned from my Wednesday evening class the day before Thanksgiving, I found Rhiman working in his office so no one could accuse him asking others to do what he himself did not have to do.

Rhiman's enthusiasm for other cultures carried over into his personal life, with a love of the cuisine of Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and India. He loved exploring Chicago for new restaurants and for grocery stores in which he could find the ingredients needed to prepare the foods of other lands. He loved to travel, and to plan travels. He disdained travel agents and his expertise with railroad timetables and other travel arcana was legendary. Despite his enthusiasm for the entire world, Rhiman in some ways remained rooted in his Hoosier boyhood of the 1940s and 50s. He preferred old-time radio programs to television, and riding the railroad to automobiles. Indeed, he only grudgingly accepted the age of the automobile. His last car was a Kia that was so stripped down it probably only cost $5000 brand new. He avoided newfangled and soulless interstate highways, preferring the byways that took one through the small Hoosier towns of his youth. One never minded the extra time that it took to ride with Rhiman because his conversation, full of wit and insight, was a never-ending source of interest.

Was Rhiman a curmudgeon? He liked to call himself one. At his memorial, various opinions were expressed. He was famous for The Speech, which he delivered on the first day of Western Civilization class to let students know they were entering the intellectual equivalent of boot camp. He believed students had the right not to be disrupted by late arrivals to class or by students wandering in and out of class and therefore he enforced rules against those rude and lazy habits. But the emotional outpouring at his memorial was most notable for the eloquent tributes from students, whose minds he had excited, and whose lives he had touched.

Rhiman faced his illness with courage. After undergoing a summer of radiation and chemo therapy, he resumed teaching this fall. Despite great pain, he carried on as long as humanly possible. He taught his last class just two weeks before his death. Such dedication to his students and to IUN was typical of Rhiman Rotz. He is survived by his wife Brenda, two daughters, Marcella and Lila, his mother, Marie Petty, two grandchildren, Jozef and Timothy, and by us, his colleagues at Indiana University Northwest, who will miss him very much.

    Indiana University Northwest
    3400 Broadway - Gary, Indiana  46408
    888-YOUR IUN

    Copyright Complaints bullet Privacy Statement