University of Indianapolis Professor of History and Graduate Program of History Director Lawrence Sondhaus has been named the first recipient of the Gerald and Marjorie Morgan Endowed Professorship of European History for his excellence in teaching and academic achievement.
According to History and Political Science Department Chair and Professor of History Ted Frantz, a dedication ceremony took place on Sept. 14, where department alumni and professors gathered with UIndy administrators to celebrate Sondhaus’ achievement. Frantz said that the professorship is expected to benefit professors and students of European History for years to come.
Sondhaus said the endowment will provide funding that will benefit both his classroom and his scholarly work. The funds will allow him to travel to Germany more often to pursue archival research and bring new information to his class about modern Germany.
“Your research should inform your teaching, and in cases like this, if I weren’t doing the research, you fall into the trap of just teaching something the same old way every time it comes back around again,” Sondhaus said. “And the research in this topic…is causing me to think differently about the way I dealt with a lot of the topics in the Third Reich class. So that will change and I’m sure that will continue to evolve between now and when I retire whenever I teach it, as I’m reconnected more with Germany.”
The endowed professorship requires Sondhaus to complete one major project every three years. Currently, he is researching the lives of two World War I German submarine commanders, Karl Dönitz and Martin Niemöller, who went on to play major roles on opposing sides of World War II in Nazi Germany. The two kept in touch throughout their lives, and both lived long enough to be the last two surviving members of their German Naval Academy Class at their 70th reunion in 1980. Though the two men shared many experiences and similarities, they followed very different life paths with different consequences. Sondhaus said that this was a perfect example of the way he teaches history.
“…One thing that we emphasize with our history courses is that history is about people making choices within the context of the times in which they live,” Sondhaus said. “In historical terms, we refer to that as contingency.”
According to Sondhaus, alumnus Gerald Morgan was a history student who received his bachelor’s degree in 1973 and his master’s degree in 1983, which was later in his life at a time when universities rarely accepted adult learners. He and his wife, Marjorie, developed a deep love of UIndy and European travel, according to Sondhaus.
Frantz said that Morgan stayed in touch with the Alumni Engagement Center and the Office of Institutional Advancement, despite no longer knowing anyone in the Department of History. Frantz said the Morgans were frugal people who quietly saved money throughout their lives.
“Usually, when we think about philanthropy, we think about people who have so much money and are so prominent that they’re able to donate a generous amount,” Frantz said. “But these were people who scrimped and saved and did accumulate a lot of money, …. They both were postmasters and they lived in Beech Grove. So nothing on the outside would let you know that these were people who had the kind of capacity to give at that level.”
According to Frantz, this endowment is a symbol of the seriousness of scholarship that is pursued at UIndy, while still being a teaching-focused institution.
“For the university in general, and our department in particular, it’s a dream come true,” Frantz said. “This is the kind of thing that institutions want to have. It’s really about pursuing academic excellence. I can’t think of anybody better who embodies all those qualities than Dr. Sondhaus.”