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On the Origins of the Center

The Medieval Club (1960s)

Although the idea of a center a such did not originate until the mid-1960s, a group called the Medieval Club began meeting in the 1950s and was well-established by 1956. The group included Professors Livingston, Ludden, and Pegues, the late Francis L. Utley, and Morton Bloomfield, and met perhaps once per quarter in homes or at the Faculty Club to hear papers. In 1957, they began work on a medieval conference which was held in the Fall of 1958. It is possible, according to Professor Pegues, that it was not only the first medieval conference held in the United States but also the first humanities conference. Included in the program were a performance by the New York Pro Musica, Noah Greenberg, musical director, and an exhibition at the Columbus Gallery entitled “Aspects of Late Medieval Art.” The conference was very successful, and the results were published in a volume edited by Professor Utley, The Forward Movement of the Fourteenth Century. This conference was the first of a series of at least seven conferences which were on topics from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century.


While the basis for the Center existed in the Medieval Club and its activities, the first time the word center was used came in 1965 when Vice-President Alfred Garrett of the Office of Research offered approximately $10,000 as seed money for an ιagency᾿ which would coordinate and administer funds for scholars at Ohio State. Vice-President Garrett envisioned a center for research in the humanities, however, rather than in medieval and Renaissance studies in particular. The following two academic years, 1965-66 and 1966-67, were ones of program development for the Center.

Program Development

In addition to the seed money from the University, outside funds were to be sought to support research – particularly team research – and to provide administrative money, for example, for travel to other centers for consultations on program development. Coincidentally, the National Endowment for the Humanities was being established, and a delegation from Ohio State went to Washington, D.C., in May 1966, to request funds. This delegation, which included Professors Ludden, Pegues, and Utley and several administrators, was the first group ever to enter the NEH offices with a packet of project proposals and requests for funds. Some of the projects were:

  • Paleography Service Center, F. Pegues (History) and K. Abbott (Classics) (Today the Center for Epigraphical and Paleographical Studies)
  • Library Project: Folklore Collection, F. Utley (English)
  • Library Project: Collection of German Late Medieval and Reformation Drama, J. Gray (German)
  • The Corpus of the Miniatures in the Manuscripts of the Decretum Gratiani, A. Melnikas (History of Art)
  • The Computer and the Humanities, E. Bulatkin (Romance Languages)

The original plans had been for a concentration on team research, but the consultation in Washington resulted in a shift of emphasis to individual projects.

Coordinating Committee

The Center was directed by a Coordinating Committee, with Professors Livingston, Ludden, Pagues, and Utley (Chairman) at the core. A graduate student, Lawrence Clopper, served as a general research associate, and there were, in addition, bibliography assistants who surveyed the resources available for the library projects. A room for the Center – connected with Professor Utley᾿s folk music project – was acquired in the Main Library. Members of the Coordinating Committee traveled to other centers to learn about their programs. Identification of members of the Center was undertaken, and lists were made of Professors with specialties in the medieval and Renaissance areas.

College of Humanities

The Center did not yet have an established budget, but it was active with money from various sources. One of the Center-sponsored activities was a lecture series which brought such scholars as T.P. Dunning, Deno Geanakoplos, Creighton Gilbert, Etienne Gilson, Paul O. Kristeller, Stephen Nichols, Lawrence Shook, and Kurt von Fischer to campus as guest speakers. Then during the 1966-1967 academic year, Dean J. Osburn Fuller of the College of Arts and Sciences, which included the departments which were eventually to form the College of Humanities (now the College of Arts and Sciences again), invited the Coordinating Committee to submit a proposal and budget for the Center. This budget comprised salaries for a director and part-time secretary and money for research assistants, annual grants, a conference, and a review of the state of medieval-renaissance studies at Ohio State. At the same time, however, the University was going through a year-and-a-half-long period of reorganization. Because of this reorganization, Dean Fuller was not able to provide the Center with a firm budget.

Medieval Academy

All Center members endeavored to be active in the Medieval Academy, and large delegations from Ohio State attended academy meetings. At Professor Utley᾿s instigation, these meetings included sessions on centers, and the result of these sessions was the Association of Centers of Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACOMARS) [now Centers and Regional Associations (CARA) and a national newsletter, The Still Point, edited by Professor Utley, for the informal exchange of information.


The early Center also published a newsletter and brochures. The newsletter, which did not have a more specific title, included much the same information as Nouvelles Nouvelles does now. Volume I, Number 1 was published in the Fall of 1966. The first brochures contained, in addition to the Center᾿s logo, an eagle, information on the Center᾿s programs and lists of faculty associates.

First Director Search

After these formative years, the Center began to emerge with an emphasis and organization which can still be seen in the present Center. For the 1967-1968 academic year, Professor Utley continued as chairman of the Coordinating Committee, and Bernard Barmann of the Department of Classics was appointed Assistant Director. During this year, the two-year search for a director began and resulted in the hiring of Professor Stanley Kahrl who served in that capacity from 1969 to 1978.

Firm Establishment

The Coordinating Committee had negotiated to report either to the Office of Academic Affairs or to a committee of deans, but, in the reorganization of the University, the Center was located in the College of Humanities. The most probable reason for this location was that the money for the Center᾿s budget was to come from that office. The first firm budget, then, was established in the Spring of 1968.

Important policy decisions were also made. Because of the early orientation toward research, there was now extended debate on the questions of offering degrees and courses. It was decided before Professor Kahrl arrived to offer an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree but not a graduate degree; the issue of offering courses was still being debated at his arrival. His support of the 200-series courses decided that question, however, and the budget began to be modified toward instruction rather than research. With these decisions, the Center was set upon the path it was to follow in the next few years.