Campus Highlights

Pioneer Profile – William Schwab, Professor Emeritus

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Pioneer Profile

icon of a calendarMarch 6, 2023

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This year as Professor Emeritus William Schwab gets ready to mark his 100th year, he took time to reflect on his extraordinary three-decades long OU career and his continuing commitment to the university and the students it serves.

Now living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Bill says his mind is occupied in many pleasant ways and the sunshine, warm weather and blue skies make for an ideal living situation. With a 32-foot wide floor to ceiling window in his fifth floor apartment, he enjoys gorgeous views of the city, along with a few inches of the Atlantic Ocean. He stays attuned to current events and happenings with daily reads of The New York Times, his local paper and several magazines. Bill is also a frequent user of the Broward County library.

While he enjoys Florida living, he misses the lectures and intellectual companionship he relished during his time as professor of linguistics and English and chair of the department of linguistics. He carries with him a special place for the countless students he taught and was known for returning to campus to teach, even after retirement.

Bill’s bond with OU and its students continues throughout his retirement. An enthusiastic annual donor, he also established the Professor William Schwab Scholarship for the Humanities. The professor says his gifts express the gratitude he feels to the university and the years spent at OU, which he describes as extremely pleasant and enjoyable. Although he admits to never volunteering to give up his salary during his tenure, he was often heard to remark, “I should be paying the university for the privilege of teaching there.”

As an inaugural staff member of Oakland University, then known as Michigan State University – Oakland, Bill arrived on campus one day before the university opened its doors to students. He was recruited from Michigan State University by Woody Varner, the new university’s first chancellor, who worked side-by-side with founder Matilda Dodge Wilson to help make the vision for Michigan State University – Oakland a reality.

Although he agonized over the decision to leave a job he loved, Bill was intrigued with the opportunity to be a part of a new institution and design and teach a course in English grammar and English structure, which was to become part of the university’s curriculum.

“My life was the happiest for the 30-some years I spent at Oakland and before that at Michigan State,” says Bill. “I’m now 99 going on 100 and I must say I have been so fortunate to have so many beautiful things happen to me. And of course, I think I made the right choices.”

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