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The 1855 Centre College catalog notes that “Opportunities for studying German and French under private instruction are enjoyed.” The instruction was given by Jacob Cooper, Professor of Ancient Languages. When Cooper left Centre in 1866 the catalogs continue to state that private instruction in the modern languages is provided, although it isn’t clear who gave the instruction and whether German was included. In 1870 Salvadore DeSoto joined the faculty as Professor of Greek and Modern Languages. The 1870 catalog, under “Elective Studies” includes a Department of Modern Languages in which “the French, the German, the Spanish, and the Italian are theoretically and practically taught.” Textbooks for German are listed as Otto’s Conversational Grammar, Adler’s Reader, Schiller’s William Tell, Goethe’s Egmont, Lessing’s Nathan der Weise, and Adler’s Dictionary. DeSoto had spent ten years in the universities of Germany, part of the time as Professor of Modern Languages in the University of Jena. By 1873 German had become the primary modern language, although DeSoto continued to offer instruction in French, Spanish, and Italian. Juniors were allowed to substitute German for the required calculus class. DeSoto left in 1881, replaced by John W. Redd, Professor of Greek and Modern Languages. Redd, a graduate of Randolph-Macon College, had studied for three years at the University of Leipzig. He continued to offer instruction in German and French. In 1883 a Bachelor of Science was first offered. Courses in German, Greek, and Latin language, literature, and history were now required for the Bachelor of Arts degree, with courses in German and Latin required for the Bachelor of Science.

In 1904 Thomas Lindsey Blayney became Professor of Modern Languages. Blayney graduated from Centre College in 1894, studied in Goettingen, Germany, and received a Ph.D. from Heidelberg University in 1903. Under Blayney the offering included courses in German philology, literature, and linguistics. In 1912 Blayney left Centre to become professor of German at the newly established Rice University in Texas.

In 1947 Carl Misch was appointed Assistant Professor of German, one of the many European academic refugees immigrating to the United States in the 1940s. Involved in left-liberal and pacifist politics, Misch had been jailed by the Nazis on their coming to power. He was released, and in 1934 immigrated to France. Following the fall of France, Misch succeeded in escaping to the United States just a few steps ahead of the pursuing Gestapo. Misch continued to teach at Centre until his death in 1965.

The 1915-1916 catalog is the first mention of students being required to select a major, with German and French being one of the nine options. German continued to be a major until the 1966 revision of Centre’s curriculum. Although requiring students to take twelve hours in a modern foreign language, German was no longer offered as a major. German returned as a major in 1978, and continues to be one of the majors offered by Centre.