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Edwin DeWindt: Music to his ears

Long-time history professor spends summers overseas enjoying theatre, working on resea

By David Foreman
On April 4, 2012

UDM history Prof. Edwin DeWindt loves music. However, it's probably not what you were jamming out to on your way to campus this morning.

"My interest in musical theatre runs the gamut," Dewindt said. "Lately I've been listening to Mozart, Wagner and

Philosophy Prof. Beth Oljar recalls a story Dewindt told her at one of the many parties held over the years at DeWindt's house in Sherwood Forest, just north of the university.

"He was talking about being 14 years old, listening to Wagner and being completely blown away," Oljar said. "At 14 I was probably listening to (disco star) Donna Summer."

If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of DeWindt's office on the third floor of Briggs, you are likely to hear his beloved opera blasting loudly from the stereo in his office.

And if you happen to be shopping for DeWindt's birthday, an iPod would be a great gift. He doesn't have one. And, oh yeah, you better include a crash course.

"I only have CDs and DVDs," he said. "All other technology baffles me."

For many college professors, summers are not the most exciting time of the year.                            

Some teach courses, while others dedicate time to pursuits outside the university, both professional and academic. Some probably just enjoy having extra time with their families.

For others there might even be the problem of what to with themselves, absent the constant flow of students in their office and an email inbox full of questions.

For DeWindt, though, summers are particularly special.

Every summer since 1973, DeWindt and his wife, Anne (also an author and UDM professor), have made the trek to London for historical research.

"Oftentimes, we are writing all day long," he said.

One of their books, "Ramsey: The Lives of an English Fenland Town, 1200-1600," took longer than usual to write.

"We worked on it for a little over 30 years," said DeWindt. "It explored the town over a period of time, and looked at some of the interpersonal relationships of the families that lived there."

Working on any project for that long is not typical, and reaching the end of the road must bring about some unique feelings.

"Being done was a weird feeling," Dewindt said. "Afterwards, as I told my wife, I don't have anything more to say about English peasants."

While a lot of research and writing takes place over these summers, DeWindt cannot get enough of his beloved London.

"The theatre is absolutely wonderful," Dewindt said, casually sitting back within his self-described "chaotic" office. "It's some of the finest acting in the world."

He wears a blazer with a purple dress shirt underneath, the partially unbuttoned shirt exposing some of his chest and a gold necklace.

On a typical summer evening in London, Dewindt can be spotted at several famous theatre spots. Just talking about these things reminds him of the couple's love affair with one of the world's richest cultural cities.

"I would really prefer to be in London much longer than we are," he laughed. "The problem with that is I can't afford it. Money doesn't really go a long way there."

During one conversation in the hallway outside his office, opera music blasted loud enough that anyone on the third floor of Briggs could have heard it.

After the chat he smiled, shook this reporter's hand and returned to his office.

He politely shut the door of his office, both quieting the music for others and amplifying it for himself.

It was just he and his music.

 

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