Deceased October 5, 2015

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In Memory

I write this memorial to my father while reflecting on his experience at Amherst, having entered the college at age 23 as a refugee from Hungary in the fall of 1957. For my father, who had been denied a chance to study at the university in Budapest and forced to serve in the army under the Communist regime, Amherst was a haven. Not only was it a place that welcomed him with a scholarship (and lodging provided by Chi Psi) after fleeing Hungary during the brief uprising against the Communists in 1956, it was a launching pad for lifelong intellectual exploration. At his core, my father was a humanist who studied history, literature, philosophy, science, music and art as a means of investigating critical questions and weaving together disparate disciplines to make sense of the world. What appealed to my father so much about Amherst’s rich liberal arts tradition was that it enabled him to cross boundaries and widen paths of discovery. He could not have predicted during his Amherst days that he would first earn a master’s degree in physics and then switch to a Ph.D. in German literature from Northwestern University. After experiencing the horrors of anti-Semitism during the Nazi invasion of Hungary, and the suffocating strictures of a totalitarian post-World War II regime, my father was forever a sceptic about any kind of dogma, any kind of world view that only recognizes one way of seeing things. He was always looking for ways to uncover connections that are not easy to discern, and to “translate” across borders and fields of study. Going on to become a professor of comparative literature was his means of making critical reflection his lifelong passionate pursuit.

My father crossed many cultural borders in his personal as well as professional life. After falling in love with and marrying my German mother in 1964, he was able to teach and make many places around the world their home: first Princeton, where my sister Nicole and I were born, then Cali, Cleveland, Wiesbaden, Pittsburgh, Paris, and eventually Amsterdam, where my father was professor of comparative literature at the University of Amsterdam between 1983 and 2003. During the 32 years he lived there with my artist mother, they built a truly international network of fellow scholars, artists, musicians and friends. Among them he is remembered for his sense of humor, intellectual passion, warmth, sensitivity, enthusiasm, and interest in other people’s views on things.

Soon after celebrating 50 years of marriage to my mother in December 2014 with a beautiful family gathering in Captiva Island, Florida, that included his daughters, son-in-law and five grandchildren, he began to experience an alarming and rapid decline in health, and was diagnosed with ALS at the end of May of this year. It is a cruel disease, especially for someone who was always so active and fit, having run his last marathon at age 80 in Amsterdam. But my father faced his illness with dignity and determination to live a purposeful life till the end, corresponding with friends and colleagues around the world and completing his final book on music and language shortly before his death in October. He also fulfilled his sense of gratitude to Amherst for opening its doors to him as a refugee from political turmoil 58 years ago by establishing a scholarship fund to support Amherst student refugees seeking haven from today’s world crises.

Eva Neubauer Alligood ‘87

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50th Reunion

After a summer in Europe with a plane that Marty Schneider and myself had chartered for Amherst and Vassar students (see my Amherst recollections in this volume) I was off to Northwestern with a graduate fellowship in physics, though, as time went on, I became gradually convinced that I wanted to pursue a career in which I could look at the science from a historical and philosophic perspective.

John Neubauer After getting a Master's in physics, I switched over to literature, and did a highly eclectic program in comparative literature within the German Department. In my third year, I received a fellowship to write my dissertation in Europe on the impact of John Brown's medical theory on German Romanticism. While in Germany, I met my wife at the Munich Fasching (Carnival) and got my first appointment without a single interview (those were the days!) at Princeton University. It was in Princeton that our two daughters, Eva and Nicole, were born. Of the five years at Princeton we spent a year on a Rockefeller/Princeton Program in Cali, Colombia, and met there, co my great surprise, my Amherst adviser Joel Gordon and his wife. After "apprentice years" of a still highly hierarchical Princeton, I became Associate Professor at the newly unified Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The great plans of the University did not materialize, however, and we left for a year on a Fulbright Research Fellowship in Germany, with an appointment to take over upon my return the chairmanship of the German Department at the University of Pittsburgh.

We had ten very good years in Pittsburgh. I received a Secondary Appointment in the History and Philosophy of Science program, and became at the end of my stay Director of Pitt's West-European Study program. My wife started a new career, and, after getting a degree in the Art Department at Pitt she went on to get a Master's in printmaking at Carnegie Mellon's prestigious Fine Arts Program. Nevertheless, other opportunities gradually moved us away from Pittsburgh. In the fall of 1979 I was Visiting Professor at Harvard, the following year we were in Paris on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1982 I was appointed Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Amsterdam.

I was already 50 when we arrived in this beautiful city, to prove, as my wife used to say, "that we are still young." We were lucky enough to be able to buy a beautiful house from 1672 on one of the central canals of the city, but not knowing the language and not knowing anybody at the university required some adjustment. Professionally it was highly satisfying to teach students who knew several languages and were culturally sophisticated, but constant reorganizations made long-range program developments difficult. I retired in 2003, at 70, but we decided to stay in this city, which we have come to regard as our own. Meanwhile our daughters married and stared their own ramifies: Eva (Amherst '87), an urban and regional planner, lives in Hastings on Hudson with her husband, an architect. Nicole lives in Berlin, with three children and her husband, who is a film critic.


John Neubauer My research, which still keeps me intensively busy, has taken me over the years into ever new territories. I started out in the US with two books on the German poet Novalis, and a book entitled Symbolismus und symbolische Logik on combinatorial mathematics and its impact on poetics. While in Amsterdam, I have published the Emancipation of Music from Language (1986) and The Fin-de-siècle Culture of Adolescence (1992), both at the Yale University Press. I have edited Goethe's scientific works for a standard new German edition, and I have worked in the last ten years on the literature of Ease-Central Europe. Three volumes of the history of its literary culture have already been published. It is an attempt to write, with about 15 collaborators, a new kind of literary history. A related project on East-Central European writers in exile took us for a year to the Collegium Budapest, an Institute of Advanced Study. The resultant book will come out still in 2009.

When I was sixty, I switched from intermittent jogging to serious running, and by now I have completed 12 marathons in various cities, the last one being (as I have reported in the Class News) on my 75th birthday in New York in 2008.

After a difficult childhood and youth, Amherst launched the better part of my life in the US and in Europe. I am highly grateful to the College for what it offered me academically and socially, and I continue to be committed to its ideals.