from left: Chris Stevens, Garry Davis, Martin Doettling, Jeff Vahlbusch, and Rob Bloomer in 1983

In the fall of 1983, five graduate students in Germanic Languages & Literatures rented a house together on First Street, wittily dubbed the Burschenpalast, by friend and fellow German graduate student, Geoff Howes, in conversation with the wonderful Mechthild Medzihradsky.

Beyond the shared love of German (and Dutch) language and culture, and the shared work of graduate classes and teaching, the key to this remarkable fellowship were the meals: each week night at dinnertime we gathered at the large round table in the dining room, and one Bursche cooked for all.

Most of us completed our graduate work just as personal computers were arriving on campus, and did our research using the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library card catalog and scholarly bibliographies in book form. Somehow we still had time for happy hours at Thano's Lamplighter on Liberty Street with its free buffet of fried smelt and other tidbits, where we celebrated exams completed and prospectuses defended. 

In the fall of 2016, almost exactly thirty-three years later, the five original Burschen and Ehrenburschen Geoff Howes and Klaus Tappe got together again in Ann Arbor around a large table in a beautiful Air BnB. Fueled by great affection, extraordinary memories of department faculty and friends, and ein Bier oder vier, we talked through a whole long weekend.

We also visited old haunts like the MLB, Maison Edwards, and Frank’s Restaurant, and mourned the passing of institutions like the original Borders Bookstore, White Market, and Drake’s Sandwich Shop. Of course we made a pilgrimage to the house on First Street, where the photos of the original five Burschen were taken.

from left: Chris Stevens, Garry Davis, Martin Doettling, Jeff Vahlbusch, and Rob Bloomer in 2016

Alumni Updates:

Rob Bloomer, PhD 1990

Since finishing the PhD in Germanic Linguistics (1990), I have continued working in the field, with jobs at the Universität Bayreuth (1989-1993) and the State University of New York at Stony Brook (1993 to present).  On some weekends I enjoy a beer and a schnitzel at Zum Schneider in the East Village.

Garry Davis, PhD 1986

It was great to be back in Ann Arbor to see old friends!  After getting my PhD I joined the German Department at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.  I currently serve as Professor of German and Linguistics, and chair the Linguistics Department there. Milwaukee is a great German-American city, but there's no place like Ann Arbor!

Martin Doettling, ABD 1987

I came to Michigan after attaining an MA at Michigan State and doing undergraduate work at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. I completed my ABD in 1987 and moved west to Monterey, where I led the German Department at the Monterey Institute (today known as the Middlebury Institute of International Studies). The lure of the emerging Silicon Valley proved to be too much, and I joined the business world.  Today I am chief marketing officer at Swrve, a mobile startup with headquarters in San Francisco and Dublin, Ireland.

Geoff Howes, PhD 1985

After finishing my dissertation on Robert Musil in 1985, I spent a year at Minnesota, and then taught at Bowling Green State University until I retired in 2015 to devote myself to literary translation. When I can, I visit my Doktorvater Ingo Seidler in Vienna, where he’s lived since retiring.

Chris Stevens, PhD 1990

I wrote my dissertation, titled Directional Adverbs in 14th Century Southwestern German:  A Study in Historical Dialectology, under the direction of Robert L. Kyes. After graduating in Spring of 1990, my first job was a tenure-track position in the department of Germanic Languages at UCLA and I have been here ever since.

Klaus Tappe, ABD 1987

My road took me from the University of Göttingen (BA) to the University of Michigan in 1980. After getting a double Masters in French Literature and then in German, I completed my ABD in 1987. After many years at Eastern Michigan University, I went on to teach at Wayne State University and also at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Having fallen in love with Ann Arbor, I decided to stay in town. I hang out at a place called Banfield's playing euchre; I regularly play soccer with an international group on the North Side of town, even in winter (I organized a German team for the German Consul, for tournaments at EMU); and I participate in many German events in South-Eastern Michigan (AATG-Mi, etc.).

Jeff Vahlbusch, PhD 1998

After finally completing my overgrown dissertation on Marxist responses to Nietzsche, also as a Doktorkind of Ingo Seidler, and after teaching at colleges and universities in Ohio, Maryland, and Kentucky, I joined the outstanding German program in the Department of Languages at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (1999). For the past 7+ years, I’ve also been director of the extraordinary University Honors Program there.

the group at Zingerman’s, clockwise from left: Geoff Howes, Martin Doettling, Garry Davis, Rob Bloomer, Russ Bloomer (Rob’s brother, not a former grad student), Chris Stevens, and Jeff Vahlbusch