Alumni Pay Tribute to Professor Charles Barrack with Memories and Many Thanks

Submitted by Stephanie N. Welch on
Charles Barrack with Ellwood Wiggins

Tribute to Professor Charles Barrack

Professor Charles Barrack has impacted many students over his half a century at the University of Washington. The short tributes below represent not just the individuals telling them, but give voice to the countless other students impacted over the course of Professor Barrack’s teaching career. On behalf of all of those students, thank you very much for imparting your knowledge, passion, and love of all things German, and life in general, on a daily basis over so many years to all of us.

Janelle (Arenz) Beal (Class of 2009, B.A. in German Cultural Studies and Music)

Herr Barrack was one my favorite professors. He was always kind, patient, and he taught us how to better understand and love the German culture and language. While I dreaded exam days in my other classes, I knew that Herr Barrack would be waiting for us with coffee, tea, cookies, and jokes. His care for our ability to continue learning and growing in our language skills extended beyond simply teaching curriculum: he equipped us with tools to continue expanding our vocabulary and cultural understanding through literature, conversation, and media. His linguistic insights, explanations, and tips were so helpful! I will always remember that “Hänsel” and “Gretel” translate to “little John” and “little Margaret”.

I had the privilege of taking or proctoring most of his “Conversational German Through Film Classes” and fondly remember Herr Barrack going to pain-staking care to make sure that we all learned how to properly pronounce many phonemes (including the glottal rolling of the R). I also loved getting to sing folk songs, practice basic conversation skills, and learn phrases that were so very useful when I spent a semester studying in Freiburg. My classmates and I also greatly benefited from his excellent recommendations for various types of food, beer, and cultural experiences while we were abroad. I will always be thankful that he insisted we visit Berlin and taste Andechs beer any time we got the chance!

Thank you so much Herr Barrack for all the skills that you taught us and all the ways you helped make the German culture and language more accessible and easier to understand! It was a joy to be your student and I wish you much joy, traveling, many visits to a Konditorei, and an un-ending supply of Andechs, which truly is one of the best beers in world!

Rachel Horkin (Class of 2009, B.A. in German Cultural Studies and International Studies)

When I think about my experience at the University of Washington, I can't imagine it without Professor Barrack. His linguistics classes and laid back teaching style were a big part of why I chose to major in German. I took all of his classes from conversational German to the history of the language. I thought he would be with the department forever. He was always willing to help me or meet up for coffee or a beer. He even brought cookies and coffee on the rare Friday when he made us come to class.

Joe Voyles and Charles have a wonderful relationship that showed in everything they did, and could be felt through the entire department. I spent several afternoons with them at Finn McCool's after our department meetings hearing stories about their escapades in the 70s and the probable origins of my last name. I even got to see a video they made together once. I don't know how the department will go on without their trouble-maker spirits.

As a German teacher, I often find myself speaking with Charles' voice. My students all look at me in shock when I tell them to hold their tongues down with their fingers to learn the rolled German R. It's always a favorite day in class that they constantly ask to repeat. I've also heard myself say “Schuhe ist plural”. (I don't find that statement nearly as funny now.) Further, none of my students will forget that dative is the default case for most prepositions.

I'd like to say thank you to Charles for being a great teacher and someone I can model my own work on. UW won't be the same without you, Joe, and Rosie.

Val Loughney (Class of 2008, B.A. in History)

By far my best memory at the University of Washington was studying abroad in Tübingen and I couldn’t have done it without extra help from Herr Barrack. It was by the skin of my teeth that I was even able to go; I was a year behind everyone else in our German course and Herr Barrack gave me extra help twice a week to better myself in his class and to prepare me for the trip. While I never managed to get rid of my rolling R (“It’s alright—you’ll just sound like you are from Southern Germany”), I did pick up enough to get me to Tübingen where I learned a great deal more and, also because of his enthusiasm, fell in love with the place. We made the trek to Andechs in his honor and, I’ll admit, a fair few trips to the Konditorei.

Since then I did some German language archival work in Poland and studied nationalism among German immigrant communities in the American Midwest. Mosaik is the only textbook I’ve moved around the country with me since leaving UW and I’ve used his tips to keep up with my German in the ten years since I’ve left Germany.

So thank you for paying such attention to the student falling behind in the back of the classroom! And thanks, Herr Barrack, for all the hours drinking tea and going over modal verbs together in your office. Best wishes to you! I hope you have many adventures during your retirement.

Benjamin Collins-Wood (Class of 2009, B.A. in Business Administration)

My first introduction to Professor Barrack came through his “Conversational German Through Films” class as a college freshman in spring of 2006. It quickly became apparent that Professor Barrack not only possessed a love of the German language, but even more so a profound love in making the German language accessible to each of his students and passing on his love of the language. Whether it was taking German Express with him, serving as a teacher’s assistant for his film class, discussing our mutual love of Bach, or stopping by his office as a senior considering post-college options, Professor Barrack’s care for and interest in the lives of students was always evident.

Professor Barrack brought the German language alive, made the grammar comprehensible, and the culture accessible. He poured himself out not just in the classroom, but also always made himself accessible at his office. He seemed to have unlimited time to discuss topics covered in class (which he was always willing to patiently walk through), as well as serve as a sounding board and mentor for anything else I wanted to talk to him about. Even when I was focused on completing my major (business) and no longer taking any classes from Professor Barrack or the German department, he continued to make time for me to stop by his office or grab a cup of coffee at the Burke Café.

Thank you very much for the time and energy you spent pouring into my life and the lives of countless others! I continue to carry with me the lessons learned during class, office hours, and over coffee. You will be greatly missed from the University of Washington campus, but I am confident your legacy will continue to live on through the countless of people you have impacted. All the best wishes as you enter this new season of life.