The Vogel Lecture series is a long- standing tradition formed to honor Ohio Wesleyan alum, Dr. Ezra Vogel. This year it was hosted by Dr. Michael Flamm in OWU’s History Department.
Because of Dr. Vogel’s recent and untimely passing, the first twenty minutes of the lecture were spent honoring his memory. Rock Jones spoke to his character and passion for the university and the town of Delaware, and Dr. Flamm added on similar sentiments.
After these heartfelt comments, the lecturer, Dr. Ellen Arnold, former professor at OWU, was introduced and began speaking.
Her lecture was on letters that were sent by a student named James K. P. Weber to his parents while in college at OWU. Webster graduated in 1871, and his father was an immigrant to the United States. Arnold recently moved to Norway and talked about how relatable it was to be settling in a new place.
Arnold began by presenting the first letter, which was sent out in 1868, to share the experience of what it was like for her when she read the letters for the first time.
She continued by going through the intricacies of Weber’’s writing, sharing very shocking information such as “someone being stabbed and students lying near death from disease outbreaks” while hiding it in normal day to day information. “It feels like James is trying to keep a close relationship with his family while living 2-3 hours away from them,” said Arnold.
One of the main points covered during the lecture were the similarities and differences between the experiences of Weber, who attended OWU in the 1800s, and present college day students.
While he went through missing and trying to keep in contact with his family, it was more important to keep in contact with family because that was the only way to know someone was alive. One could not simply dial in with a phone call or just casually drive the 2-3 hours where his family resided.
In June of 1869, Weber wrote a letter home because his family had not written to him in so long saying “Something must be wrong if you haven’t sent a letter”.
Arnold added, “This sense of worry and relief that is able to come out of the pages that were written so long ago is amazing. This is just one of the ways that we can use older things that can be an illustration for how things were like long ago.”
She drew a parallel to the times of uncertainty with sickness to today's climate with COVID. “The communication between families of the 1800s that are being separated is very different from students that are moving into the dorms now.”
“He is a normal person living a mundane life in an extraordinary time.” Arnold said in conclusion.
The event took place on Monday, March 28th, at 7 p.m. over Zoom.