Distinguished Service Award Honorees: Solomon R. Schneider & Timothy J. Kloberdanz

Schleicher, Jon. "Distinguished Service Award Honorees: Solomon R. Schneider & Timothy J. Kloberdanz." American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Journal, Fall 1999, 51-54.

Solomon R. Schneider and Timothy J. Kloberdanz were each individually honored for distinguished service at AHSGR at the Casper Convention banquet held on 10 July 1999. The awards were presented by John Schleicher, a life member of AHSGR, who has also served on the AHSGR Board of Directors. Schleicher works for the Nebraska State Historical Society in the Education and Statewide Services Department. The Distinguished Service Award Plaque is on display in the AHSGR Headquarters Ruth M. Amen Boardroom.

The Distinguished Service Award honors those who have made exceptional contributions of their time and service to AHSGR. Since it was established in 1991, the award has been presented to twelve highly-deserving individuals, who are listed in your convention and banquet programs.

When we think of the Distinguished Service Award, we probably think that it is given to people who are at the culmination of their volunteer service to the society. But, as evidenced by most of our past award recipients, the contrary is quite true. In fact, we have several past recipients with us here this evening. They all continue to work tirelessly for AHSGR, and continue to set an example for the rest of us to follow. I would like to recognize the past Distinguished Service Award winners who are here this evening.

In the past, I have attempted to keep the identity of our honorees a secret while telling you a little about their lives and accomplishments in AHSGR. This is much easier when the honoree is a woman, who is known to most of us by her married name. But tonight I will not attempt to keep the identities a secret as I give my remarks about both of these men.

Solomon Reinhold Schneider was born 6 September 1922, in Wakeeney, Kansas, the sixth of eight children of George and Mollie (Deines) Schneider. As a boy, he did his share of milking cows, scooping wagonloads of wheat, and doing farm work with teams of horses. He spoke the German dialect of his parents before learning English from his older brothers and sisters as they learned it in school. The children in his family attended Bible school on Saturdays and for six weeks each summer he learned to read and write the beautiful German script. In high school he was a member of the National Honor Society, and upon graduation in 1940, was accepted for a work scholarship program in the college library at Fort Hays State College (now University), in Hays, Kansas, earning a teaching certificate. He taught school for one and a half years, and then entered military service during World War II, serving three years in Europe, including landing on Omaha Beach.

In 1948, Sol married Venita Inloes in Fort Collins, Colorado. He graduated from Creighton University School of Dentistry in Omaha, Nebraska in 1951. Sol established his dental practice in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1951, with Venita working as his assistant. Sol and Venita are the parents of two children, Karla Kathleen and Michael James. Karla is a partner in the law firm of Schneider and Conrad in Berlin Germany. Michael is a dental laboratory technician, and lives in Wellington, Colorado with his wife Bonnie and two children.

During his career in dentistry, Sol has received awards from the State of Colorado, and the National Foundation of Dentistry. He has received Outstanding Service Awards from the Larimer County Dental Society, and has served on the Colorado Dental School Foundation, the Curriculum Committee of the Colorado Dental School, the Colorado Dental Association Peer Review Committee, and the Larimer County Dental Society. He was elected to the prestigious Pierre Fauchard International Dental Academy, which is the highest honor in dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Colorado Dental Association, Larimer County Dental Society, and the American Society of Dentistry for Children.

Sol has served as a volunteer in many organizations in his community and state, among these are the Fort Collins Lions Club, Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Collins, the Fort Collins Symphony Board, the Elks Club, the Colorado State University Ram Boosters Club, the Effie Curtis Trust Fund Foundation, benefiting needy children in Larimer County, the Denver Turnverein, the Federation of German American Societies of Colorado, the Fort Collins Human Relations Commission, and the Fort Collins Council of Churches.

Sol and Venita are charter members of AHSGR, and are also charter members of the Northern Colorado Chapter, organized in 1970. They became life members of AHSGR in 1982, and have provided life memberships for their two children. Sol has served the Northern Colorado Chapter in many capacities, including chair of the program committee for a number of years, and as a member of the chapter board. He was President of the chapter from 1977-1978. In nominating Sol for this award, Larry Bohlender, past president of the Northern Colorado Chapter said of Sol, "his leadership, humor, many personal contacts and unswerving commitment have contributed immensely to the excellent growth of our chapter. Without his notable programs at our dinner meetings, our membership would not be as knowledgeable as we have become about our German ancestry and the conditions our forefathers suffered in Russia."

Sol was elected to the Board of Trustees of the AHSGR Foundation in 1978, and was immediately elected secretary of the board. He continued to serve on the Board of Trustees until 1993, serving as President of the board from 1989 to 1993. He has been one of the most active supporters of the $1 million endowment fund for AHSGR, and has shown much enthusiasm, personal commitment, and hard work toward this long-term goal.

Sol has worn his German-Russian heritage on his "shirt sleeve," for everyone to see and emulate. This has not only benefited all German Russians in northern Colorado, but also provides us all with an excellent example of someone who has successfully balanced commitments to family, church, service organizations, and his profession. It gives me great pleasure to present the 1999 AHSGR Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Sol Schneider.

Timothy J. Kloberdanz was born 22 October 1948, the son of John C. and Elizabeth (Sewald) Kloberdanz. He was born into a world that was as thoroughly German-Russian as one could ever hope to find. His grandparents and parents were Volga German sugar beet farmers who lived along the South Platte River, near Sterling, Colorado. It was a world of colorful old country nicknames, dialect-rich proverbs, mysterious customs, delectable food ways, and haunting stories. Due to an extremely large extended family, young Timothy often attended foot-stomping "Hochzeit" celebrations in northeastern Colorado. He was fascinated at an early age by the old songs, customs, dances, and wedding rituals that had been brought from Russia. As many of us can attest, he is today an excellent "Dutch Hop" dancer in his own right.

Long before AHSGR was even established, the wide-eyed youngster who would become Professor Kloberdanz, was writing down notes about his German-Russian heritage. Tim began collecting and recording examples of German-Russian family history and folklore while still in high school. He graduated from St. Anthony's High School in Sterling in 1967. He enrolled in the University of Colorado in 1967, receiving his bachelor's degree in Anthropology in 1971. He began interviewing older Germans from Russia in Colorado in 1969, a project that continued until 1976. While an undergraduate, Tim completed an independent study project on the "Germans from Russia," under Professor Valentine Boss.

He received his master's degree from Colorado State University in 1974. His master's thesis was entitled "The Volga German Life Cycle: An Ethnographic Reconstruction." In the fall of 1976, he moved to North Dakota to take a teaching job at North Dakota State University in Fargo. In October 1976, Tim married Rosalinda Appelhans in Denver, Colorado. Rosalinda, also the descendant of German-Russian immigrants, shares Tim's deep interest in German-Russian history and culture. A traditional German-Russian "Hochzeit" was held, and many AHSGR members attended. Lawrence and Elizabeth Weigel of Hays, Kansas, led the wedding march for the Kloberdanzes. The Kloberdanzes are the parents of two sons, Michael Josiah, born in 1978, and Matthew Aaron, born in 1980.

Tim pursued doctoral studies in Folklore and Anthropology at Indiana University in Bloomington, receiving his Ph.D. in 1986. The title of his doctoral dissertation was "Cross Makers: German-Russian Folk Specialists of the Great Plains." Since 1976, Tim has taught a semester-long course on Germans from Russia at North Dakota State University. A number of Tim's students who have taken this course have gone on to do masters theses and other research on the Germans from Russia. In August 1998, a writer for the magazine German Life commented on his course, "If even just a touch of Kloberdanz's enthusiasm spreads to this younger generation, the future of German-Russian culture in the United States is indeed bright."

Since 1990, Tim has taught a special summer workshop for teachers, ranging from kindergarten to university-level. The primary focus of the class is on ethnic folklore and folk art. One of his students commented on the workshop, "I was inspired by Dr. Kloberdanz's exuberance for his work and his continuing interest in preserving cultural...traditions. With Dr. Kloberdanz's leadership, I was able to view my own region, my own culture, and my own state with a new perspective."

At the ripe old age of twenty-two, Tim joined AHSGR in 1970, after hearing about the Society's first convention in Greeley, Colorado. He attended his first convention in Boulder, Colorado in 1972, where he became acquainted with David and Lydia Miller, Emma Schwabenland Hayes, Jake Sinner, Gerda Walker, and many AHSGR pioneers. He published his first contribution to an AHSGR publication in 1972. In 1975, he gave his first presentation at an AHSGR convention in Lincoln, Nebraska, a lecture titled "Treasured Traditions of Our People: From the Cradle to the Grave." Dr. Adam Giesinger, who was in attendance, remembered the speech "was found so interesting by the audience that they gave the young man a standing ovation when he finished."

Tim was elected to the AHSGR Board of Directors in 1975, and served almost consecutively on the Board for the next twenty years. He has chaired the AHSGR Folklore Committee, and organized the annual AHSGR convention folklore symposium for many years. He has been a speaker or presenter at more than fifteen AHSGR conventions. He was elected to the AHSGR Foundation's Board of Trustees in 1995, and continues to serve the Foundation as chair of the grants committee.

Tim has published more than 100 articles, essays, books, monographs, etc. The majority of these relate to Germans from Russia and at least one-third have been published or reprinted by AHSGR, and cover a wide range of subjects. Along with being a contributor to AHSGR publications, Tim has served for a number of years on the AHSGR Editorial Advisory Board, made up of scholars from across the country. He has also been a speaker for many AHSGR chapter meetings around the United States. Because of his long residence in North Dakota, Tim has worked hard to bring about better relations between AHSGR and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. He has encouraged the membership of both societies to recognize common interests, common origins and common goals.

As a nationally recognized expert on the history and culture of Germans from Russia, Tim often appears on radio and television programs. Most recently, he was involved in the Prairie Public Television documentary The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie. He served in an academic advisory role, and also appears in the documentary. This documentary includes scenes of the AHSGR heritage center and helps publicize the role of AHSGR in preserving the heritage of the Germans from Russia.

In 1991, Tim and Rosalinda were among the very first researchers to actually visit the long-closed Volga German settlement area in Russia. While there, they collected numerous examples of dialects, folk customs, narratives, and material folk culture. Upon their return from Russia, the Kloberdanzes began writing about their research experiences in the Lower Volga region of Russia. In 1993, AHSGR published their book Thunder on the Steppe: Volga German Folklife in a changing Russia. The book drew a positive and enthusiastic response from AHSGR members and many others, including praise from the United Nations Secretary-General, who said the book made readers aware of "the common humanity that binds us all."

In 1995, Tim was asked to write the Germans from Russia essay in the two-volume encyclopedia set American Immigrant Cultures: Builders of a Nation, published by Simon & Schuster Macmillan in 1997. This encyclopedia entry includes information about AHSGR for the benefit of interested readers. The two-volume set is now found in the reference sections of countless city, public, and university libraries across the country.

If I were to read you Tim's complete resume and professional vitae, I think we could be here all night! So, let me conclude on a personal note, by telling you a story about Tim that I observed recently. I can truly tell you that the heart of this well-known academic scholar lies with the history and folk culture of his people, our people, the Germans from Russia. In April of this year, Tim was a speaker for the University of Nebraska's Center for Great Plains Studies symposium on music and dance on the Great Plains. As part of the symposium, a polka dance was held at the Pla-Mor Ballroom west of Lincoln, Nebraska, which consisted of a "battle of the bands" of sorts, with a Czech polka band from Omaha, and a traditional "Dutch Hop" polka band made up of musicians from western Nebraska and northeastern Colorado. Tim didn't think he could make it in time for the polka dance, as he was teaching a class that morning. But, he rushed down to Lincoln from Fargo, and arrived in time for the last hour or two of dancing. After a long drive, he danced every dance with any willing partner, and was truly an expert at the "Dutch Hop." We concluded the evening with a Dutch Hop-flavored version of the "chicken dance," with the very enthusiastic, never-to-tired-to-dance Dr. Kloberdanz leading us in our chicken motions.

The following evening I was able to sit in the audience with Tim as we both listened and absorbed the keynote address of the conference, given by folklorist and German-Russian descendant Roger Welsch. Roger discussed the broad topic of music and dance on the Great Plains, while including just a little about his heritage as a German-Russian, attending dances at the Welfare Society hall in Lincoln. I think I enjoyed this well-known lecturer's talk even more because I sometimes looked over to see the reactions in the expressions on Tim's face as he listened to Roger's stories, and as I heard Tim's hearty laughter.

On the final day of the symposium, our friend Tim put on his academic hat, as Dr. Kloberdanz, to give a presentation on the Dutch Hop musical tradition as he knows it from his youth, and as he has studied it as a scholar. That week of the symposium, two of my colleagues at the Nebraska State Historical Society, Gwen Meister and Lynne Ireland, both folklorists themselves, separately described Tim in almost the same way, as something close to the true "personification" of what it really means to be a German from Russia.

As with Dr. Sol Schneider, Dr. Timothy Kloberdanz wears his ethnicity on his "shirt sleeve." I am so pleased that I have the opportunity to present Tim with the 1999 AHSGR Distinguished Service Award.

Reprinted with permission of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.

See the GRHC website at "Outreach Programs" for the pages "Germans from Russia" Class Anthropology 461/661, Dr. Timothy J. Kloberdanz, Class Instructor, including a course summary and color photographs.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller