Former exchange students gauge the impact of a year at Union in the early 1960s
A surgeon from Uruguay, a philosophy professor from the Netherlands, a computer engineer from Germany and a former United Nations interpreter from France met in Spain in June 2007. The four men were on vacation and reminiscing about another adventure in a foreign land: three trimesters at Union in 1961 and 1962. Federico Schneeberger is a general surgeon Evangelic Hospital of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Klaus Rittman is a computer engineering consultant and former IBM employee living in Stuttgart, Germany. Erik Krabbe is a leading scholar in the field of logic and argumentation and is in his last year as professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Claude Echard is a retired United Nations interpreter living in Geneva after years of moving to U.N. outposts around the globe. The four reunited in Barcelona and later reflected on the impact of their year at Union. They financed their Union education with a combination of scholarships from the Institute of International Education, the Fulbright Commission and lodging from a host of fraternities including Phi Gamma Delta, Sigma Phi and Alpha Delta Phi. Union has for many decades provided a range of study abroad opportunities for students. But that is just half the equation. On average, there are 30 international students from nations ranging from the Czech Republic and Japan studying at Union each year.
The academic year I spent at Union College was the most valuable experience in my education. Within one year I acquired more insight, knowledge and information than ever before or after. Union gave me the chance to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds. From that time on, thanks to the excellent faculty at the College, I had a much better appreciation of world events. I finished my academic studies in Germany with a master’s degree in mathematics in the early 1960s. Then I joined IBM, where I stayed for 28 years. I worked on projects related to software development. I spent several years in the United States, Switzerland and Belgium, before settling down in Germany. Since 1984 I have also been lecturing regularly at the University for Applied Sciences in Stuttgart, Germany. After leaving IBM in the 1990s, I continued working in the computer field as an independent consultant. I was born in Pforzheim, Germany. I have been married for 40 years and have two children and one grandchild. I believe I was able to teach them the value of traveling and meeting with other people in order to further mutual understanding and peace.
Dr. Federico Schneeberger
My scholarship to Union gave me a new experience. I was able to participate in the daily life of an American educational institution. It was very significant for us to compete successfully with the student community at Union; that we could be on the Dean’s List proved that we were competitive. Being in a small city gave us the chance to communicate more easily with the local community. We became junior ambassadors of our own countries for local groups and associations. So, as a result, I managed to get to know Americans quite well and they in turn showed a great interest in learning about our realities. Also, they opened up intellectually to us. Even if, from a purely academic point of view, what I learned at Union was not essential for my career in medicine, my study of the English language, which I started at Union, and completed here in Montevideo, was useful. I finished my studies in Uruguay and later became a general surgeon, a job which I still perform today. In 1970 I got married and went on to raise a large family with six children. I will always feel gratitude to Union College for the valuable experience.
I was granted a scholarship by Union College and hospitality by the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, as well as a Fulbright travel grant. I spent a full year studying the liberal arts. That year has been extremely valuable for me. It helped me to extend my experience by getting to know another culture and another language. More specifically, it was at Union that I developed a taste for academic life and respect for academic standards. Also, the year at Union gave me the opportunity to study various fields simultaneously (something unknown in the Netherlands), and thus decide on what field to take up. At Union I took courses in English, American civilization, economics, American drama and philosophy. Professor Paul Kurtz’s excellent introduction to philosophy course made me decide to pursue philosophy. However, being also fond of mathematics, and in order to be able to earn a living, I also took up math. I studied these fields at the University of Amsterdam, focusing more and more on logic. I did so for a number of years, taking degrees in 1966 and 1972. In 1976 I married my wife, Tineke. Our daughter was born in 1977 and in 1990 we adopted a student from Somalia as our son. During the academic year 1987–88, I was a fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences and working on a joint project with the Canadian philosopher Douglas N. Walton. There we conducted research that ultimately led to a book on dialogue theory: Commitment in Dialogue: Basic Concepts of Interpersonal Reasoning (State University of New York Press, 1995). Since 1988 I have been an associate professor at the University of Groningen, teaching both philosophical and mathematical logic and theory of argumentation. In 1995 I was appointed full professor and named to a special chair for philosophical theory of argumentation. At present I am close to retirement, but hope for some more years to be supervising dissertations and to remain active in research and editing. No doubt, Union College has greatly contributed to my education, which has resulted in many happy years of teaching and research.
I shall always be thankful to Union College for having given me a unique chance to make my dream of becoming a United Nations interpreter come true. Without learning the language and the culture with those who speak it, being an interpreter would have been impossible. At Union I studied government, sociology, Russian and several other humanities. I lived at the Sigma Phi fraternity and played on the soccer team. I enjoyed the Rathkeller’s nighttime activities and traveled around the country. About nine years after leaving Union, I was recruited by the United Nations, where I worked from 1970 until my retirement in 2000. The United Nations was an environment which was in harmony with the values I had learned at Union College. For 20 years my work took me to U.N. headquarters in places like New York City and Geneva. In the late 1980s, as the Cold War came to an end, I joined U.N. peacekeeping operations and went into the field as a political affairs officer, first to Namibia, then to El Salvador and finally to the former Yugoslavia. I live in Geneva with my wife. Our children have married (both born in Mount Kisco, N.Y.) and live nearby in Belgium. All this would have been totally different had it not been for the generosity and open-mindedness of some individuals at Union who greeted me, taught me, and introduced me to a world which seemed inaccessible.