VERMILLION, S.D. -- István Gombocz, Ph.D., a professor in the department of modern languages and linguistics at the University of South Dakota, is the 2016 recipient of the Monsignor James Doyle Humanities Teaching Award, presented by the USD College of Arts & Sciences. Gombocz will receive the award at the 2016 Phi Beta Kappa Initiation/Lifto Amundson Lecture on Wednesday, April 20.
Gombocz, who teaches introductory and advanced German language courses as well as courses in the honors program, joined the university in 1989. In his nearly three decades of teaching at USD, Gombocz said he has never tired of encouraging students to broaden their cultural horizons. “It’s a special challenge, but I like challenges,” he said. “There is no burnout in sight. Even after 27 years.”
Since he started teaching at USD, Gombocz said he has seen tremendous advances in classroom and Internet technology, which have enhanced his ability to impart information to his students. “We have these smart classrooms that make class preparation so much easier,” he said of the campus rooms equipped with computers and projectors. “I don’t know when I last wrote on a blackboard.” German podcasts, developed especially for language learners, also feature prominently in his lessons on listening comprehension and to demonstrate different accents among German speakers in various regions. Gombocz credits traditional sources of information at USD for assisting his teaching efforts as well. “We have wonderful materials in German and about German in the university library,” he said.
The German and honors program courses Gombocz teaches all have a significant cultural component, he said. He currently team teaches a course on the Enlightenment and introduces translated novels and texts written by German philosophers. His own research on German-Americana becomes a lesson in history and interpretation when he asks his students to identify the American national anthem from a German-language newspaper published in Eureka, South Dakota, during World War I. Gombocz explains to his class that this and similar newspapers had initially supported Germany and Austria in the first years of the war. “When the United States entered the war, the German-American community in South Dakota felt obligated to show loyalty to its host country,” he said.
The Doyle Humanities Teaching Award is a fitting tribute to a dedicated teacher and scholar, said modern languages and linguistics professor and chair Laura Vidler, Ph.D. “Dr. Gombocz is the only German professor on campus, so his students truly rely on him for all of their advising, mentoring and guidance as well as teaching. He is incredibly dedicated. One time this year he skied to class during a blizzard! The students really appreciate this personal attention and love him for it.”
Gombocz was born in Hungary and received degrees from the Lorand Eötvös University of Budapest and conducted studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin. After immigrating to the United States in 1985, he received his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois.
The Doyle award is made possible thanks to a gift from Monsignor James Michael Doyle, former chair of religious studies at USD and a prominent theologian inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. The award is presented annually to an outstanding teacher in the Humanities Division of the College of Arts & Sciences.
“I would like to express my appreciation to Monsignor Doyle for this generous award,” Gombocz said.