German Scholar’s Odyssey Comes Full Circle at Rutgers
Charlotte Craig has dedicated her life to languages and literature
It was 1962 and Charlotte Marie Craig was on the verge of realizing her dream: becoming a doctoral student in Germanic studies.
But Princeton University, where she had applied, was still very much an “old boys’ school” and denied her admission.
“They said they regretted it but they weren’t admitting women,” Craig says.
“I said, ‘You regret it? Whatabout me?’’’
Nevertheless, Craig received some advice from the university that would ultimately prove useful.
“They told me, ‘Try next door,’” she says. “I said, ‘Excuse me, I just arrived from Arizona; what is next door?’”
That would be Rutgers.
Rutgers made it possible for me to do the work that I love.
She soon arrived on College Avenue, fell in love with the campus, and was accepted into a Ph.D. program. She received her degree in 1964.
It was a pivotal moment in an epic life journey. Craig, a native of Czechoslovakia, had arrived in the United States in 1949 with a fierce commitment to Germanic studies, particularly the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. “I’m an 18th-century person,” she declares.
She worked her way up as she followed her husband, Robert Craig, a U.S. Army officer, to military assignments in Washington, Alaska, Arizona, and Germany. At each stop she advanced in her scholarship and bolstered her résumé. In Alaska she taught at Anchorage High School. “And at night, I taught the troops Russian,” she said.
After Rutgers, Craig went on to enjoy a successful career at several universities, including Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, where she served as professor of German and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. She retired in 1999.
But her connection to Rutgers has only grown stronger.
As a donor to the Rutgers University Foundation she has supported initiatives in the Department of Germanic, Russian and East European Languages and Literatures in the School of Arts and Sciences. Those include visiting professorships, graduate fellowships, and scholars-in-residence.
“Rutgers deserves it,” she says. “The university made it possible for me to do the work that I love.”
In 2001, Craig came full circle, returning to Rutgers as a lecturer.
In an increasingly technological society, she sees her role as a teacher of languages and literature as providing an essential public service. “Our job is to get students to think deeply, to analyze, and to understand,” she says. “That is why I am here.”