1978 - Allan M. Winkler

Allan M. Winkler

1978-1979

Though I’ve come back to Finland many times since my Fulbright in 1978-1979, my most recent return visit in the spring of 2008 was special.

For me, it was the 30th anniversary of my appointment as the 3rd recipient of the Bicentennial Chair in American Studies, and it was a treat to meet subsequent chairholders, some old friends, some new. Most of all, it was wonderful to see how healthy the American Studies program has become. There was no Renvall Institute, no Professor 3 decades ago. I taught one course in the English Department, another in the History Department, but the latter took particular effort to ensure that students in the History program would get credit for taking the class. Today it is vastly different, and the marvelous Maple Leaf and Eagle Conference was a reflection of the health of the program.

On this visit, I particularly enjoyed seeing old friends. Markku and Ritva Henriksson have remained special over all these years, and just to have the chance to share a meal in their home reminded me of the depths of Finnish friendship. I delighted in seeing other colleagues from the History Department with whom I have stayed in touch. And together with Bill Chafe, my successor in the chair, I went to visit our host family – each of our families got to know the same Finnish family, for our daughters were roughly the same age – and we had a sauna and then a relaxed evening over beer and wine and it felt as though we had never left.

I returned home to Ohio tired but happy. And I collapsed in my own sauna. I hadn’t quite followed the old Finnish adage “First you build a sauna, then you build a house,” but I had installed one about 10 years ago, and now the warmth and the steam coming off the stones made me remember all the more intently my return visit to a country I love.