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Max Kade House History

The following text was composed in February 1980 by Frank X. Braun, Professor Emeritus of German at the University of Michigan and former Faculty Associate of the Max Kade German House.  It describes primarily the establishment of the Max Kade German House in Oxford Housing, where it was located until its move to Baits Housing in the Fall of 2000.  Some more recent information has been added towards the end, but if anyone nostalgically surfing these pages has any information that could fill some of the gaps in this text since 1980, please contact us at we would love to be able to make this a complete account!

It is fitting to begin this historical account of the "Max Kade German House" with a brief biography of the man whose name the language house bears. Max Kade was born in Schwäbisch-Hall, Germany, in 1882. After absolving the Gymnasium, he spent some years as an apprentice in his father's machinery and bridge building business. He came to the United States at the age of 22, established his own business in 1911, manufacturing on the basis of a German formula a patented cough medicine, the immensely popular "Pertussin." Subsequently, he developed a flourishing pharmaceutical company (Seeck and Kade, Inc.). At the age of 75, still youthful and energetic, he retired, donated his company to the Max Kade Foundation Inc., and turned his attention from business to philanthropy.

Max Kade combined in his person the quality of a keen American businessman and a cultured individual with a profound love of learning and an urge to promote the exchange of knowledge across national boundaries. Over the 35 years of its existence, the Max Kade Foundation has contributed generously to American and European universities, particularly in the areas of postdoctoral fellowships in the sciences, in the founding of Max Kade Distinguished Professorships, and in student housing. The Foundation's program of supporting language houses resulted in establishing Max Kade German Houses at Colorado College, Oberlin College, the universities at Freiburg i.B. and München and other American and European universities and colleges. The University of Michigan is one of the recipients of the Foundation's generous grants.

Mr. Kade was awarded a number of honorary degrees, among them Dr. h.c. from the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart, an honorary Professorship from his home state Baden-Württemberg and the title "Honorary Senator" from the universities of Tübingen, München, Heidelberg, and Innsbruck.

Max Kade led a simple life. His chief extravagance was his profound love of art. After his retirement, he devoted much of his time to collecting paintings, drawings, and prints by the Old Masters such as Montagna, Schongauer, Dürer, and Rembrandt. Max Kade died on July 15, 1967. The Max Kade German House at the University of Michigan is but one of the monuments to the memory of a great and generous man.

Michigan's Max Kade German House

The seeds out of which grew the Max Kade House on this campus were planted by the Edgar Schwaibold, then President of the Star Watch Case Co., on the occasion of a hunting trip in Ludington, Michigan in the Fall of 1964. Students, 29 girls and 23 boys, in the form of a petition, enthusiastically supported the project in 1965 and Dr. Braun, backed up by the encouragement of Edgar Schwaibold, the advice of John Feldkamp, Director of University Housing, Frank Shiell, Manager of Services, Leonard Schaadt, Associate Director of Housing, and Robert M. Chance, U. of M. chief architect, decided to pursue further the idea of a German language house. In August, September and 0ctober 1966 he had a series of meetings with the architects, discussing specific plans of building an addition to Geddes House in the Oxford complex. Rough estimates of the total cost of the project, from foundation work to the interior decor of an "all purpose room" and a library, including air-conditioning, were arrived at. John Feldkamp was sufficiently impressed by the project to assume the financial risk of ordering detailed architectural plans and water color renderings to be submitted to the Max Kade Foundation together with an application for funds. The application was to be composed by Dr. Braun and was to present an overall rationale for the proposed language house in terms of academic, financial, organizational, social and all other pertinent aspects. This document, subsequently to be known as the "Constitution of the Max Kade House," was approved by the Housing Office and accompanied the architectural plans and renderings sent to the Max Kade Foundation on November 6, 1966.

The month of December 1966 was a fateful month for the prospective language house. Events, all of them happy ones, crowded each other as is evident from the compilation below.

Dec. 6, 1966 - Transmission of plans and application for funding to the Max Kade Foundation.

Dec. 14 - acknowledgement of the receipt of above materials by the Foundation. There was an optimistic note in Dr. Markel's letter.

Dec. 21 - A phone call from Dr. Erich H. Markel, President of the Max Kade Foundation, to the effect that the Foundation had extended a grant of $100,000.00 to the University of Michigan for building and equipping the Max Kade German House. A subsequent letter by Dr. Markel to U. of M. President Harlan E. Hatcher, also dated Dec. 21, 1966, indicated that a check for $50,000.00 was enclosed and that the balance was to be forwarded on the day of groundbreaking.

The year 1967 saw the final review of building plans, furnishings and interior decor in a series of meetings with the architect, interior decorator and finally with the contractor submitting the lowest bid (Richard Wagner!). There was some delay in the construction process due to a steel strike, but nevertheless the students, 28 girls, were able to move in in the fall semester 1967.

The first eight months, the "pioneering period" of the Max Kade German House, were anything but easy for the students and the House Director, Mrs. Irmgard M. Schneider, an experienced teacher and school administrator who had only recently arrived from Germany. In September 1967 the students moved in while the workers were pouring the foundation for the addition. The wall of the east living room consisted of plywood and dust; wind, rain and snow had nearly free access. Water pipes froze and the inhabitants of the house, with pots on their heads, would form a singing procession to borrow water from their neighbors. For months the Max Kade House resounded from six in the morning on, five days a week, with air hammers, electric drills and similar noisy instruments. The admirable patience and forbearance on the part of all inhabitants under the mature and competent direction of Mrs. Schneider was responsible for the survival in this stressful era of the Max Kade House. Finally on April 4, 1968 the addition was completed and the official "Opening" was celebrated in due form.

The Official Opening Of the Max Kade German House

The official opening of the Max Kade German House was indeed a gala affair. On April 4, 1968 at 8 o'clock Mary Dozman, a student and president of the Max Kade German House welcomed the guests (in German) and introduced Mrs. Irmgard M. Schneider, the first director of the Max Kade German House. Dr. Braun as M.C., then introduced Dr. Erich H. Markel, President of the Max Kade Foundation who spoke briefly and eloquently about the educational programs of the Foundation and introduced Mr. Edgar Schwaibold, member of the Board of Directors of the Max Kade Foundation. Dr. Markel concluded his remarks with a pleasant surprise: a $2,000 check for the purchase of books for the Max Kade German House library. He was followed by Executive Vice President of the University of Michigan, Marvin L. Niehuss, who, speaking for President Hatcher and the Regents, expressed their collective appreciation of the generous grant of the Foundation. John Feldkamp, Director of University Housing, welcomed the Max Kade German House as a new and important segment of the University's "living and learning" program. The last speaker was Konsul Erwin Hartmann of the German Consulate in Detroit, who briefly outlined the guidelines of cultural aspects of the German foreign policy.

Professor Braun also introduced a number of personalities who had assisted in making the Max Kade German House a reality: Messrs, Stickel and Weinbrenner of the architectural firm Frederick Stickel and Associates, designers of the Max Kade German House as well as of all the houses in the Oxford Housing Complex; the university architect in charge of the project, Mr. Robert M. Chance; Mr. Richard Wagner, the contractor in charge; members of the Board of Governors of Residence Halls: Professor Marie D. Hartwick, Prof. W. Earl Britton and Prof. Donald P. Eachmann. Members of Mr. Feldkamp's staff who took a bow were: Robert C. Hughes, Associate Director as well as assistant Directors Charlene A. Coady, Edward Salowitz and Dr. Helen Tamer; further Messrs Chester Melanoski, Paul Boyer and Roy Passon; for the Oxford maintenance team: Kevin Lynch, Hugo Söderquist, Joe Lallo and Paul Bies.

It was Dr. Braun's last but not least pleasant duty to express the gratitude of the Max Kade German House to Mrs. Harlan H. Hatcher , our former "first lady," for donating to the Max Kade German House her private collection of German literary works. He also thanked the Washington embassies of the German-speaking countries Austria, West Germany, and Switzerland for presenting to the Max Kade German House library collections of valuable and useful literary works.

During the second year of its existence, the house was again under the competent direction of Mrs. Irmgard Schneider. The activities initiated by her in the first year, at times under great handicaps, were fully developed. The organization and administration of the house was perfected. Norms and procedures were established that served as models for subsequent house directors of the Max Kade German House and traditions were born which live on in the House to this day.

In 1969, Mrs. Schneider relinquished her position as house director in order to devote herself to her doctoral work. She absolved her preliminary examinations and wrote her doctoral dissertation with speed and distinction, was granted the Ph.D. degree in July 1973, and in the Fall of the same year accepted a position as assistant professor of German at Oklahoma State University

In 1970, the Max Kade German House became co-educational, i.e. the occupants consisted of 15 men and 15 women on separate floors. This "bold" innovation, in line with the general trend in campus housing, was viewed with alarm by some. However, the results of co-educational housing in the Max Kade German House were positive, academically and socially, reinforcing our belief In the maturity of our students.

The experience of other language houses on this campus and of other institutions clearly demonstrated that the house director's linguistic and social competence, his or her ability to get along with students and administrators, his or her maturity and devotion to the welfare of the house, make or break a language house. The Max Kade German House, from its very inception, was blessed with outstanding house directors and sympathetic coordinators of the Oxford housing complex. At this juncture it might be appropriate to mention Mrs. Schneider's successors.

1969-71 - Mrs. Antje Mac Naughton. When Mr. Mac Naughton received his law degree, she relinquished her position.

1971-72 - Mr. and Mrs. Edwald Hatch. Both received their doctoral degrees in German and now [1980] teach at Dayton University.

1972 - Ms. Helen Cafferty, Teaching assistant in the German Department assumed the vacant position for a semester. She subsequently accepted a position at Bowdoin College, Maine, received her Ph.D. from Michigan in 1976 and is currently [1980] Professor of German at Bowdoin College.

1972-74 - Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Finton. Mr. Finton a former Teaching fellow in the Department, is currently [1980] completing his work for the Ph.D. Mrs. Finton is Administrative assistant in the Humanities Department of the University of Michigan Engineering College.

1974-77 - Mr. and Mrs. Walter Zubryckyj. Marianne is currently [1980] teaching high school at Dexter, Michigan.

1977-78 - Mara Wade is currently [1980] associate professor of German at the University of Illinois.

1978-79 - Mr. Richard Plewa, Teaching fellow in the German Department, at present [1980] director of one of the homes in the Oxford complex and doing graduate work in Business Administration.

1979-80 - Ms. Joyce Tousey, former member of our J.Y.A. in Freiburg, graduated in 1981 with A.M. degree in Linguistics and a teaching certificate from the School of Education.

1980-81 - Ann Adams, who was an Assistant Professor of German at Morehouse College before moving to the Program in African-American Studies at Cornell University.

1985-87 - Klaus Tappe, who earned his master's in German in 1985.

1988-89 -  Charlotte Droll, who earned a master's degree in German in 1987.

1990-91 - Claudia Obermueller, who graduated in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in German.

1991-94 - Hartmut Rastalsky, who received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and is now our Language Program Director.

1994-95 - Robert Martin

1995-96 - Jessica Stauffer

1996-97 - Frank Cassel

1997-98 - James Gies, who graduated in 1997 with bachelor's degrees in German and Slavic.

1998-2000 - Dan Richards

2000-2002 - Ilka Rasch, Ph.D. ('07)  and Vera Irwin (Eremeeva), Ph.D. ('09). Both were graduate students in German.

2002-2006 Stacy Swennes, currently a lecturer in German.

2007-2008 Patrick Davis ('09) and Beth Frysinger ('09), Max Kade's first undergraduate Cooperative Head Residents.

2009-2010 Daniel N. Hefflebower, who graduated in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in German and History.

2010-2011 Teresa Kilmer, who graduated in 2013 with bachelor's degrees in German and History of Art.

2011-2012 Lydia McMullen-Laird, who graduated in 2012 with a bachelor's degree from the Ford School of Public Policy.

2012-2014 Alexandra Kalinowski, who graduated in 2014 with bachelor's degrees in German and International Studies.

2014-2016 Jeremy Ross, who graduated in 2015 with a bachelor's degree and in 2016 with a master's degree, both in Mechanical Engineering.

2016-2017 Meredith Gilbert

2017-2018 Nicholas Pozsar

2018-2019 Jonathan Jan