Message from the Director

We have achieved something lasting! I used to fantasize about the day when we could announce, “The Oberman Chair Endowment is complete! A senior colleague’s presence here is ensured!  Heiko Oberman’s personal library can become the property of the UA Libraries!” That day has come. Indeed, it came in June 2010, when an anonymous donor stepped in and gave the amount that remained between what we had gathered, about $1,743,000, and the $2 million target set by the UA years ago.

On Sunday evening, October 24, 83 contributors and officers of the university gathered at the Arizona Inn to celebrate. Mrs. Toetie Oberman, three of hers and Heiko’s children, four of their grandchildren, and other relatives from The Netherlands were in attendance. We might have danced, but we staid academics preferred to express our satisfaction verbally. Ute Lotz-Heumann, the first and current Oberman Professor, thanked Luise Betterton for her full partnership in fund-raising, and Sandra Kimball for her unstinting, artistically gifted devotion to the cause at every turn. Dean John Paul Jones III referred to the Division as a “nameplate” of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Jane Dempsey Douglass recalled studying under Oberman’s direction at Harvard Divinity School—she was his first Ph.D. student and the first female teaching assistant there. Richard Duffield, chair of the Division’s Advisory Board and convener of its Fundraising Committee, turned attention to the labors of those bodies—not to mention the rich contents of certain envelopes that arrived in the Division from their hands. He thanked all donors for their indispensable part in our collective triumph. The Obermans’ son, Raoul Foppe Martin Luther Oberman, interjected the thanks of his family and a toast to his mother.

Toetie Oberman reviewed the significance of this achievement for her and her family, and the importance for the University of Arizona of the successful endowment by the community of another academic chair. The era of Heiko’s specialization was indeed one in which paradigms took shape that are still recognizable as marks of the Western world.  Because of the chair, a specialist in the history of that foundational age will always be present at this research university. Her four grandchildren, Darijn and Toetie Zwart and Ruben and Noah Oberman, each bore forward one volume of Heiko’s most valuable title, “Opera d. Huldrychi Zuinglii,” (1545) and placed it in the hands of Dean of the Libraries Carla Stoffle. Stoffle has lent the Division her moral support and advice since our very first fundraising reception, in the fall of 2001. She added that the Library wishes to add to the Oberman Collection by means of the Morris Martin Endowment in the UA Libraries.

John P. Schaefer, former UA president, noted scientist and photographer, and first-class bibliophile, spoke about the advent of printing with movable type as a revolution in communication. He had been reading, he told me beforehand, Elizabeth Eisenstein’s book on early printing—the longer version! He agreed with her on the centrality of printing for the notable advance of scientific interchange in the early modern period, as well as for the dissemination of novel religious ideas. He showed numerous photos that he had made of beautiful Oberman volumes and other valuable works in the UA Special Collections Library.

I wish you could all have been present. The fact is that the majority of you who have contributed to this endowment live impossibly far away, throughout North America and in Europe. Colleagues from many other institutions have added their monetary and psychological support. I could tell stories about a number of you related to your gifts but must, along with Luise and Sandra, guard these forever. Some statistics can be released. Sixty-one percent of our alumni gave, which is an astonishingly high rate of participation. The Division is the third highest fundraising unit in the College; it has produced the only cash-endowed chair in the College. In the end, we are collectively triumphant. We can all be proud together.  Not even fiscal hard times have stopped us. I personally lift my glass to you and you and you!

Susan C. Karant-Nunn

Regents' Professor of History
Ph.D. Early Modern European History, Indiana University

Related Topic(s):