The Western Civilization Curriculum marked an era at the Colleges, one that defined a generation of HWS students who for two years under the guidance of the late Professor Emeritus of History Frank O’Laughlin and others. Western Civ. took students from Moses to Kafka and although deeply challenging, the course could also be provocative as students wrestled with the greatest thinkers and ideas of the European canon.
Fortunately, the original typewritten syllabi pages have been restored into four volumes, titled “The Syllabus of Western Civilization.” Packaged as a box set, the syllabi take a fascinating look at what was a comprehensive and innovative academic tradition.
The set can be purchased at the College Store and online.
A member of the History Department for 39 years, Professor O’Laughlin continued mentoring both his students and his colleagues until his death in the summer of 1999 even after his active teaching career had ended. O’Laughlin was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., and graduated from Notre Dame University.
Anticipating graduate study at Oxford, his plans were canceled by Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Instead, he entered Harvard University where he studied for two years before transferring to the University of Chicago. Just as his work there began in earnest, Pearl Harbor was attacked and he entered the U.S. Army Air Force, serving for the duration of the war. He resumed his studies, joining the prestigious Committee on Social Thought at Chicago.
Over the years, Professor O’Laughlin amassed a collection of nearly 11,000 books, which were given to the Colleges after his death by his wife of 35 years, Mara O’Laughlin ’66.