Remembering Alan DuVal

April 1st, 2008

Professor emeritus of German Francis Alan DuVal, 91, of Mount Vernon, Iowa, died March 24 from complications of pneumonia. This blog was created to allow his former students and colleagues to share their memories of Dr. DuVal. To read the full obituary, click here.

Alan DuVal

4 Responses to “Remembering Alan DuVal”

  1. Ross Ludeman '54 says:

    I was a student at Cornell 1950-54. I began German to learn something of the culture and language of my ancestors who had come to Iowa to escape serving in Bismark’s armies. Knowing I was going to seminary following college, the choice of a major was not as pressing as it might have been. In second year German I found the language, the literature, and Herr DuVal to be my delight. It rather surprised me that I chose German as a major, but three professors were the stars in the constellation of my years at Cornell, Alan DuVal, Eric Kollman, and Howard Lane. I had the privilege of serving as a student assistant to Alan my senior year (That may not be the correct term). I had no idea at the time that the warm relationship in those days would develop and grow over time. After seminary Alan and Louise showed up (often unexpectedly) at special events in my professional life. One surprise – that was not “professional” happened in Wisconsin.

    We were visiting our son who worked near Madison, and we had gone to Lodi to take the excursion steam train ride. We were waiting for the train to pull to take our turn. As the locomotive came closer the conductor in the following rail car was leaning out of the entry platform and giving signals to the engineer. Suddenly I recognized Alan in his “train” uniform. At the same moment he recognized me, and a joyful reunion immediately took place. He obviously was having the time of his life.

    He was a a multi-talented man, with such wonderful stories from his earliest days in southwestern Iowa, serving in the Coast Guard, and staying in touch with so many students across the years. He was a thoughtful teacher, who encouraged a student’s curiosity and insight about things German,and – I would add – things human. Through his gentle guidance I learned to think more deeply about the tides and forces that shape us through language, culture and tradition. I shall miss him.

  2. Britt LaBissoniere Hoverman '82 says:

    I spent last weekend in Mt. Vernon at the home of my classmate Dee Ann Rexroat ’82, having journeyed down from Minneapolis to attend the memorial events for Dr. Alan DuVal. Amazing how much beauty there is in the barren farm fields of late March in Iowa.

    As a freshman German major in 1978 one of my work-study jobs was to serve as Dr. DuVal’s student assistant, a position I was fortunate to keep until graduation. It was my pleasure to bring him his mail every day upstairs in College Hall, where he would leave me a note and any assignments or tests he wanted typed up for class. These I typed on carbon paper and copied on the mimeograph machine.

    After college, I received the light green paper Christmas letters from Alan and Louise produced on Alan’s typewriter at home. Even after Louise passed away, Alan still typed these letters and sent them each Christmas with holly drawn carefully in the corner. Sweet sentimental things like this endeared Alan to his friends and family.

    Those four years at Cornell, working for Alan and taking his German literature and grammar classes made him a constant presence. And he was much like a grandfather to me, always concerned, friendly, funny and wise. I depended on him more than he knew and I realized at his funeral last week more than I knew at the time.

    As Ross Ludeman commented above, I was also surprised and delighted that my friendship with Alan continued over the years. He always expressed interest in my life and he remembered times we shared. What came to me when he passed away was that he made everyone lucky enough to know him feel that he or she was the center of the universe.

    Memories of Alan – visits at his and Louise’s beautiful home full of family antiques – his wood shop in the basement – stories of his and Louise’s ancestors and relatives – his glorious garden, maintained right up until his 90th year – his conductoring on the restored train in North Freedom, Wisconsin – the occasional message on my answering machine in recent years in his gentlemanly voice – visiting him this past fall during my 25th reunion homecoming weekend. That weekend he shared with me his plans for a new garden path this summer. I hope I am planning a garden path in my 90s! He lived life fully right until the end.

    Saturday evening after Alan’s funeral, I was fortunate to share Cedar Rapids Symphony tickets with Dee Ann. Ironically and fittingly, we heard moving renditions of Haydn’s Symphony No. 44 the “Trauer (mourning) Symphonie” and Brahms’ “German Requiem.”

    Goodbye to my dear friend Alan. It was my honor and privilege.

  3. Kris Ekvall Reiner '76 says:

    I was fortunate to have enough time my senior year to take Herr DuVal’s freshman German class. I enjoy languages and thought it would be fun to learn something totally different from French, which I had studied all through high school and college. I learned much more than the language and found friends in Dr. and Mrs. DuVal.

    I was offered a ride home every time they went to visit their daughter who lived in my hometown and the 4 hour ride seemed much shorter because of the great conversations we had. I remember visiting their beautiful home and learning about the “tree rooms” – so named because leaves from a particular tree had been pressed into the plaster at the time of construction.

    In the years since graduation, I have had opportunities to use both German and French and I find that I remember much more of the language I studied for 1 year than the one I studied for 8 years! Surely there can be no greater proof of Herr DuVal’s teaching prowess than that! He will be sorely missed.

  4. Joy Dressel, class of '75 says:

    I was deeply saddened to hear about Dr. DuVal’s death. If I weren’t attending a wedding in Missouri this weekend, I would be going to Mt. Vernon to participate in the Homecoming weekend session for remembering him.

    I graduated from Cornell in 1975 with a major in Russian, a minor in German and coursework that earned me a teaching certificate. Dr. DuVal had been my advisor and teacher for several courses. Unlike most people, I came to Cornell with 4 years of high school and one year of college Russian and no background in any other languages. Dr. DuVal recommended that I study an additional language if I wanted to actually find a job teaching at a high school. Good advice! So in my first several semesters of German classes I used the DuVal textbooks (and still have them). I think about it every time we drive by the I-80 sign announcing the exit for What Cheer, Iowa, when we take my daughter to Grinnell College. I think it was part of a dialog in the beginning textbook – a guy from What Cheer introducing himself to someone in Germany. Coming from Missouri, I had never heard of the place.

    Dr. DuVal was always enthusiastic in his teaching and advising. I was very comfortable relating to him. I remember him smoking his pipe while talking with him in his office. He and Mrs. DuVal were always very welcoming of students and former students in their home. We would meet there for German Club meetings during college. (I loved those leaf impressions in the living room walls!) After I graduated I would always receive a warm welcome from them. They became like family.

    Dr. DuVal was impressive in his old age. He kept working in his garden and being interested in reading about and discussing a wide range of topics. I’d love to be able to follow in his footsteps. He and Mrs. DuVal were good people. I’ll miss visiting with Dr. DuVal and receiving those green-paper Christmas letters.