Stroupe, Shirley, and O’Flaherty retire

The dean of the Graduate School, a scholar who is fascinated by the extremes of German culture, and a former mayor of Winston-Salem are retiring from the Reynolda campus faculty.

Henry S. Stroupe (’35, MA ’37), professor of history and dean of the Graduate School; James C. O’Flaherty, professor of German and a Nietzsche scholar; and Franklin R. Shirley, professor of speech communication and mayor for two terms, were honored at commencement exercises.

They are part of a small group of professors who taught on the old campus and their years on the faculty total 120 — Stroupe 47, O’Flaherty 37, and Shirley 36.

Each has a benign view of Wake Forest and each says he looks forward to an uncomplicated and gentle retirement. Each says the school is a good place, partly because the enrollment is small (the student-teacher ratio is 14-1) and the atmosphere is informal and usually pleasant.

Stroupe, who is extraordinarily careful about details, told his last class to remember there are five syllables in North Carolina. It is the kind of thing he sprinkles through his lectures on his specialty, the state’s history.

When Wake Forest resumed graduate work in 1961, Stroupe was named director of graduate studies. In 1967 the graduate division became a school and Stroupe became dean. His successor has not been appointed. Stroupe was also chairman of the history department for fourteen years.

he said the complexities of education and life in general make graduate education “necessary for many people. It wasn’t terribly long ago that you could get along well with a high school education.”

Stroupe has been active with North Carolina historical groups. In the fall of 1982, he was presented the Christopher Crittenden Memorial Award by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association for a “lifetime of service in advancing the history of North Carolina.” He has written numerous articles and a book titled The Religious Press in the South Atlantic States.

He received the BS and MA degrees from Wake Forest and the PhD from Duke University.

O’Flaherty was pastor of a Baptist church while he worked on his PhD in eighteenth century German literature and philosophy at the University of Chicago. He seems an unlikely defender of Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who violently attacked Christianity. O’Flaherty said, “Nietzsche never spilled much ink except on the greatest thinkers and concepts. Actually, I think he respected Christianity but, have it as you will, he was a great shaper and critic of modern culture.”

Although O’Flaherty has written extensively on Nietzsche and was one of the organizers of the North American Nietzsche Society, his early research and first book were on Johann Georg Hamann. O’Flaherty said Hamann, an obscure eighteenth century German, was one of the most original Christian thinkers and writers.

So, O’Flaherty has struck an interesting scholarly balance, his question being the “German paradox which produced Bach and Albert Schweitzer also produced the monstrosity of Nazism.”

O’Flaherty attended William and Mary, Georgetown College where he received the BA degree, the University of Kentucky where he received the MA, the University of Chicago, the University of Heidelberg, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He says he is “quite happy with the general development of Wake Forest.” He continues to express a concern that the liberal arts may fall by the educational wayside. And although he does not like the idea of Baptist groups controlling the University, he thinks it should retain its Baptist connections.

Shirley said he never could have been anywhere “that made me as happy as Wake Forest and Winston-Salem.” That is partly because Wake Forest allowed — even encouraged — him to become involved in public service. “People who turn away from politics hurt themselves and society,” he said. He ran for alderman and won in 1963 and served continuously until he was elected mayor in 1970. Two Wake Forest presidents, Harold W. Tribble and James Ralph Scales, strongly encouraged him, Shirley said.

Shirley has taught speech since he joined the faculty in 1948 and he established what then was called the department of speech. For nineteen years, beginning in 1948, he was the school’s debate coach, continuing a tradition of formal argument that extends to Wake Forest’s early years. He taught for a total of fifty years and, appropriately for a politician, began his career in a one-room schoolhouse.

Martha Wood (’65), a member of the board of alderman and a former student of Shirley’s, said, “He has more ability for spotting natural debate talent than any person I know.”

The University’s major debate tournament, the Dixie Classic, has been renamed the Franklin Shirley Dixie Classic Debate Tournament.

Shirley received the BA from Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY, the MA from Columbia University, and the PhD from the University of Florida. He wrote a book about Zebulon Vance, a North Carolina governor, which was published in 1962.

— Russell Brantley
Published in Wake Forest Magazine.