Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
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WILLIAM RULLKOETTER. On June 26, 1864, William Rullkoetter was born in Oberbauerschaft, Westfalen, Germany. Before the boy was five years of age the mother had died and because the father had been drafted and served through two campaigns, the Austrian and Franco-German war, he grew up in the home of his mother's people. From six to fourteen he attended the village school and stood for three years at the head of the school. Because of this record, he was urged to complete his education at the expense of the community. Preferring to depend on his two strong arms, this offer was refused and plans were made to enter the army as a volunteer and there to continue his education. However, in 1881, the immigration fever impelled him to come to America, "the land of promise," instead of joining the army. After working in Ohio and Nebraska for five years, at from twelve to eighteen dollars per month and saving nine hundred dollars, he decided to enter the Academy of Hastings College, Nebraska. Of this he says: "Since I had not been inside of a school house for eight years and never inside of an English school, it was a struggle in the dark, but gradually there came intermittent rays of light and finally daybreak." Of the class of forty who entered the Academy with him, he alone entered the college and in the junior college year took the prize for English. Entering, the University of Chicago in the fall, of 1892, he was graduated with the first class in 1893. Having received a fellowship in history for two consecutive years, he did post-graduate work until the fall of 1896, when he was called to the chair of history in Drury College, which position he has held continuously until the failure of his health in 1912.
By work during the summer quarters, Mr. Rullkoetter received the reward of his ambition, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, in 1899, and in the next year his thesis on "The Position of Woman Among the Early Germans" was published and has become an authoritative work on this interesting phase of German history.
The influence of Doctor Rullkoetter as a teacher is best told in the words of a former pupil, when he said, "Doctor Rullkoetter, or Doctor Billy, as he is affectionately called, in a remarkable way took hold upon those whom he instructed, and influenced their lives mightily. His great motives were contagious and his fine philosophy of life became the dominant note in the lives of his students." A prominent business man said a short time ago, "I had the good fortune to have some great teachers in college and university, but somehow, what Doctor Billy said stays with me. He gave me a method of thinking. He enabled me to see myself in vital and significant relationships which, while they seem to remove the emphasis from the individual, they nevertheless, by the very fact of socializing him, make him -vastly more important. I find myself thinking his thoughts and gauging my theories and my conduct by his philosophy."
While at the University of Chicago, Doctor Rullkoetter was an earnest student and an ardent admirer of the great historian, Von Holst. Following his own inclinations and under this inspiration, his mind naturally turned to the great social, political and moral problems of the day the light which an exhaustive knowledge of history and economics throws upon them. In his capacity as one of the leaders of thought in municipal affairs, he was persistent and unyielding in his opposition to petty politics and corporate greed.
Quoting again from the writing of Mr. S. J. Vaughn: "Many years ago," I heard him say repeatedly, The next quarter of a century must face and solve the problem of industrialism. The forces of education and society must take cognizance of the conditions, problems and hideous wrongs which the growth of monopolized industry has forced upon the helpless and dependent. It will probably be settled by those forces bringing about an orderly, readjusting evolution; if not in this manner, then by a blood-letting revolution.
Continuing, Mr. Vaughn states, "Doctor Rullkoetter was the first man I ever heard use the term 'social consciousness.' His was the first influence on me personally, looking toward education for efficiency, freedom and happiness of those who must toil with their hands. His words rang in our ears, 'It must come, and it is the business of the men and women of the next quarter of a century to bring it about.' In the light of what has taken place along these lines in recent years, these words seem almost prophetic. In the matter of social consciousness, he has lived and still lives far in advance of his day."
His literary work has been continued in an outline of history, especially a medieval and in an interpretation of some of the German masterpieces. Commenting on these interpretations, one of his former colleagues on the Drury faculty writes: "I shall be most happy to tell others of these fresh and keen sighted 'interpretations.' I want all my friends to know Doctor Rullkoetter and in this way they may." A prominent alumnae says: "Doctor Rullkoetter's own honesty and breadth of view and bravery have enabled him to give a rarely sympathetic interpretation of Faust. The general favorite of the three interpretations, however, has been the 'New Interpretation of Wilhelm Tell.' All of us feel very strongly the originality and truth of such an interpretation."
Any sketch of the life of Professor Rullkoetter would be incomplete without mention of his ten years of service in the summer school, both at Drury and for five years at the Normal. That the memory and influence of his chapel talks during the three years he was director of the Drury Summer School still linger in the minds and hearts of the teachers of the Southwest.
Schiller asserts: " A good man thinks of himself only at last." Doctor Rullkoetter thought of his home, his children, his students and if he thought of himself at all, it was only at last.
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