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University of Oregon

In Memoriam: Roland Bartel

bartel roland

Roland Bartel died on September 20, 2012 at the age of 93.  He was a member of the English Department from 1961 to 1986 and Department Head for eight years, 1968-76.  Roland was the mainstay of the Department throughout his long tenure as Head and particularly during the chaotic period of campus protests against the Vietnam War.  It was only fitting that Roland, a lifelong pacifist, should be the one to keep the peace.

David Bartel (UO English major, B.A., 1974) provided the following memorial of his father: “Dad was born at home on the family farm near Hillsboro, Kansas, on February 17, 1919, the sixth of ten children.  He was raised in a traditional Mennonite farming community, speaking High German in church and Low German on the farm.  He didn’t learn to speak English well until he started school.  One of my very earliest memories was of Dad rocking me to sleep with German lullabies….”

“He enrolled in Bethel College in 1937, but after two years took a break to teach elementary school, hoping to save enough money to finish college.  Another teacher at the same school was Betty Long, and they quickly became a couple; they were married in 1943.  During World War II Dad was a conscientious objector and spent four years in Civilian Public Service.  Then he returned to Bethel College, graduating in 1947.  He went on to Indiana University for his Ph.D. in English (1961), writing a dissertation on ‘Antiwar Sentiment in the late 18th Century.’”

When Roland arrived at the UO, the total student enrollment was about 4,000.  The English Department was small and conservative, and there was no graduate program. The teaching load was four courses per quarter—three sections of composition and one of literature.  Roland received the Ersted Award for distinguished teaching during his early years at UO and was one of the first faculty members to teach a televised course.  When the English Department began offering teacher training, Roland was put in charge of the program and continued in that position until he retired.  He obtained a federal grant to set up Advancement Placement courses in Oregon high schools and played an important role statewide, organizing conferences with administrators and summer institutes for teachers.

When he became Department Head, Roland chose a graduate student with previous teaching experience, Ulrich Hardt (Ph.D, 1974), to take over some of his English Ed classes.  Rick Hardt spoke at the memorial for Roland, recalling particularly their long and friendly association in later years and Roland’s contributions to the Oregon English Journal: “Since 1984 (when he was 65 years old), we published twelve major articles of his, the last one he sent us when he was 86 years old….” Most of his articles dealt with war and peace, but he wrote on other subjects as well.  Roland also published seven textbooks on various literary and historical topics.

At the memorial Rick read excerpts from many of the reminiscences of his fellow graduate students.  The following are typical of their memories of Roland: “He was a very kind and thoughtful man, with a firm but gentle touch in managing the sometimes unmanageable students and faculty of the UO English Department.”  “Very few of us doctoral students had actually taken a course from Roland Bartel, yet isn’t it telling that all of us think of him as a teacher from whom we learned important lessons?”