An Interview with Prof. Robert Ganz, who delivers an honorary ‘Last Lecture’ Friday

Prof. Ganz enjoying time outside of the English Department
Prof. Robert Ganz, an integral component of the GW English Department since 1964, will retire this spring. As a valued professor and scholar of Robert Frost and modernism, Prof. Ganz has seen the growth of the GW English department, as well as the different eras filled with talented students.

I was fortunate enough to have a few words with Prof. Ganz on retiring, the GW English Department and how student life has changed over the years.

What will you miss about teaching?
I’m retiring, as it happens, at a stage in my life when I’ve been particularly enjoying teaching and preparing for my classes. Thanks to humanities department, I’ve been able, during the past twenty or so years, to teach a lot of new-to-me works spread out over the whole gamut of the Western canon. I’ve not been confined to works by English speakers nor, for that matter, just to literary works. I will also miss the opportunity to consult with my colleagues on matters of mutual interest. I hope that the humanities program will be revived. It’s been the case for some time now that these courses have only been taught when I or someone else has persuaded a dean to let us do so. These humanities courses have always been over-subscribed and I have found the students to be for the most part very enthusiastic.
How have the students changed over the years?
Students now are different from the ones I started with in the early sixties. In those days they were better prepared. I could count on them to have read certain things in advance of coming into my course. But today’s students are still card-carrying members of homo sapiens; hence have the same intellectual curiosity that I have and the same sense of likeness and of how to use it.
Any memorable students?
I’ve had wonderful students including Ann Romines, Patti Griffith and Faye Moskowitz, who are now members of our department. Others who have gone into the profession include Al Nielsen and Richard Flynn. Patrick Prentice, who was in my first class at GW, has gone on to success as a film-maker with more than three hundred works to his credit. Another early student, the late Sarah Jewler, ran New York Magazine. Still another, early student was Judith Hermanson Ogilvie, who has had a career in foreign affairs and has just been appointed by Northern Illinois University as the founding director of a center for non-profits which draws on “real world ” experience and offers an interdisciplinary degree. My apologies to those other equally worthy former students whom I have failed to mention during this off-the-top-of-my-head improvisation.
What will you do during your retirement?
I’m only retiring because, at going-on 86, I think I should be setting my own lands in order outside of academia before I lose the capacity to do that. Recently, I’ve been concentrating my focus on the last slightly more than two centuries and taken that to be one period. Perhaps my favorite of all periods is the Baroque, though I have no special expertise in it. But it’s certainly been a wonderful couple of decades of self-education, aided and abetted by the opportunity to pursue this activity in close collaboration with others: my students.
Prof. Ganz will deliver an honorary “Last Lecture” for students, faculty, alumni and friends on Friday, February 18 in Funger 103. Following the lecture, there will be a celebration of Prof. Ganz’s life and work in Phillips 411, with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. For more information, call 202-994-6180. This event is open to all friends of Prof. Ganz.

– Paula

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