The Life and Retirement of Dr. Gudrian

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The Life and Retirement of Dr. Gudrian

Joshua Luke Wiseman, Contributing Reporter

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     Dr. Waltraud Gudrian has been at the heart of every discussion of German or French at Henderson State for 10 years. Through her sudden but appreciated spills of motivational speaking in the middle of a German lesson, and her genuine respect for the topic of language- she is nothing short of enigmatic. I was ecstatic to have such an interesting professor for the rest of my college career, so you could imagine how sad I was to hear that she was planning on retiring after the year. 

     I found a silver lining however, in the form of a brainstorming session for the school paper later that afternoon. It was in the context of a discussion about a soon-to-be leaving advisor that I remembered what Dr. Gudrian announced, and I immediately made sure the topic of her retirement entered the conversation. It may have been underneath the guise of getting some topics on the board for the other students to write about, but I said it with the intention of getting the chance to write about it myself.

     My intentions came to life soon after, and before I knew it, I was sitting down in Dr. Gudrian’s office equipped with pen and paper. The depth of the conversation that followed was eye-opening. The things I learned of her experiences in being apart of so many different cultures, and how all of those experiences shaped her view of the world, is something I hope to take with me into the rest of my life.

     Born in Berlin in 1953, in a little village called “Falkenhagen”- her family was one hour away from the east side of the wall. She was raised during the construction of the wall and interestingly recounts not her own feelings toward the construction, but her fathers. “My father mostly dealt with the political upcomings because he couldn’t say what he was thinking. Announcements like ‘you have not to say that, you have not to think that’”. This tension developed into her family having an understandable issue with the German government, stories of being forced to give away property for nothing and difficulty traveling made it hard for them. 

     Her family made an attempt to fly to Canada, but this was when Dr. Gudrian was very small, and due to this, she described herself as being very “bad” on the flight: “I didn’t hold well”. This made her mother concerned about her daughter’s ability to handle the long flight ahead, leading to the decision of landing early in Düsseldorf and starting a new life around the industrial part of Germany. She went back to Berlin to study when she was around 20 and just 10 years later she made the decision to pursue her education and interest in a foreign culture by moving to Paris, France. She felt comfortable, as she had connections in her field of study. These connections lead to her spending a year working with autistic children. This line of thought led to a discussion of adapting to change, a theme that became prevalent as my discussion with her continued. She raised her hand to illustrate the following-“From the norm you, people judge down. When you push the norm left or right- things change. These changes have made me very wise” 

     She continued working in Paris for around 10 years until a friend made her interested in moving to Canada together. Dr. Gudrian remarked the words of her friend in jest-“You already left Germany, you can do this (move) a second time!”. The groundwork for the move was laid, but as the time approached, the friend married at the last minute, leaving Dr. Gudrian to make the move to Canada alone. At the beginning of her time in Canada, she had trouble finding a place for herself. In regards to work, she said: “You are either overloaded with your diploma or not enough”. She felt it better to continue her status as a student, and that’s exactly what she did. She received her doctorate at the age of 50 and traveled to America for work soon-after. “I first worked in Pennsylvania, and now I work here.”