Joe Voyles toasts C.M. Barrack as Friend, Colleague, and Renaissance Man

Submitted by Stephanie N. Welch on
Charles Barrack and Joe Voyles

Joe Voyles shares his thoughts on longtime friend and colleague, Charles Barrack:

I first met C.M. Barrack in September of 1965 when I had just been hired as an assistant professor here in the German department and he had just arrived from California to be a first-year graduate student.  He introduced himself to me at a departmental meeting.  My first impression was that of a highly motivated, intellectually honest and committed, somewhat voluble and very personable student whom it would be a pleasure to work with.  That impression has not changed, nor has C.M. Barrack--except that he is now an older professor emeritus.  Indeed, he, like all of us, got older.  But unlike some of us, he never got old.
After obtaining his PhD in Germanic Linguistics here and after a brief sojourn at Bakersfield College in California, Barrack came back to the U of W to co-teach with me our courses in Germanic linguistics, which we have done for almost 50 years… Our chair at that time, W. H. Rey, in an absolutely inspired decision, hired C.M. Barrack.  W.H. Rey was an excellent chair, knew what he wanted and usually made sound decisions.  He surely did this time.
During his career here C.M. Barrrack has proved to be a true Renaissance Man: he has taught and published all over the place.  He has taught undergraduate language courses on all levels and has inaugurated and conducted a perennially popular freshman and sophomore introductory film course.  He has taught all our German linguistic courses.  He even taught at the urgent request of W.H. Rey (to whom, as I can testify from personal experience, it is difficult to say "no") a graduate seminar on Baroque German literature.  Barrack later opined to me that he believed he had not done it very well.  From what I heard later, the students did not agree.
On this subject, Barrack gets on famously with his students.  He obviously likes them; and they like him.  They appreciate his humor and respond in kind.  Since he is somewhat of a live-wire and thus there is seldom a dull moment or a pregnant pause in his classes, he has been referred to as a "voiced continuant".  This is a phonological term and was clearly intended as a complement.  Barrack took it is such, I think.
His publication record is equally diverse.  He has published on topics in Germanic and Indo-European linguistics, Nietzsche, Modern German literature and Medieval poetry (as influenced by that of Arabic).  He also co-wrote with our former colleague Horst Rabura the learner's grammar MOSAIK.  The book was well received and is still being used.
Barrack is appreciated throughout the department for being "a good colleague".  Horst Rabura and Manfred Bansleben (both former directors of our undergraduate language program) frequently mentioned to me their appreciation of the fact that C.M. Barrack was always ready to accept any teaching assignment and at any hour of the day. So C.M. Barrack, while a Renaissance Man, is decidedly not a prima donna.
In fact, he is actually rather self-effacing--a rare and somewhat refreshing trait in academia.  He has often expressed to me his gratitude for being in our profession as well as for his association with colleagues in the German and Linguistic departments.  He actually seems to believe that they have contributed more to him than he has to them.  I suspect that his colleagues in Germanics and Linguistics would disagree.  I know I would.

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