History Department
History Department

In its 24th year, Normandy Scholar Program hosts 20 students, expands Europe itinerary

Tue, August 27, 2013
In its 24th year, Normandy Scholar Program hosts 20 students, expands Europe itinerary
NSP students with Profs. Wynn and Debacker

This spring twenty students from different departments and backgrounds, led by Associate Professor of History Charters Wynn, joined together to participate in the History Department’s Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program (NSP).  The other History Department faculty members who taught in the program this year were David Crew, Judith Coffin, H. W. Brands, and Francoise Debacker.

The NSP, an academic program that focuses on the Second World War, was launched in the spring of 1990. Since then, over five-hundred students have devoted a semester to studying the causes, conduct, consequences, and contemporary representation of WWII.  The NSP is supported by generous donations from Friends of the NSP, the College of Liberal Arts, and a program fee.

The 2013 Normandy Scholars, over the course of the spring semester, took classes together, read dozens of books, wrote numerous papers, attended guest lectures, watched fourteen films, and met with a Holocaust survivor.  After this academically demanding semester, the NSP took a three-week trip to Europe that allowed the students to further contextualize their knowledge.  Students visited various sites related to World War II in London, Paris, Normandy, Berlin, and for the first time this year, Cracow in Poland.  These sites included the British War Cabinet Rooms and numerous museums that focused on the Battle of Normandy and Nazi atrocities.  The expansion of the program to Cracow meant Normandy Scholars this year were able to visit the notorious Auschwitz extermination camp.  On another unforgettable day, students walked for miles along Omaha Beach, then up the bluff to the American Cemetery and Memorial, where each Normandy Scholar placed a yellow rose on the grave of a Texan buried there.

Perhaps the most valuable component of the NSP is the sense of community, friendship, and personal development and intellectual growth that turns the program into an all-around life-enhancing experience.  In the words of Max Alspach, a student in the Liberal Arts Honors Program who is majoring in History, “I learned so much from these great professors both in Europe and in the classroom, all the while making friendships that will last a lifetime.” “I am not aware of any other program that allows students to study alongside one another all semester and then travel to Europe.  The diversity of the program allows for rich discussion both in the classroom and on subways and trains throughout Europe,” he said.

One of the highlights of this year’s program was a talk by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst to the Normandy Scholars in March, attended by University of Texas President Bill Powers, NSP benefactor and decorated World War II veteran Frank Denius, Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl, and History Department Chair Alan Tully, among others.

Dewhurst’s father, one of the most highly decorated bombers in the 9th Air Force, participated in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.  But Dewhurst knew little more than that because a drunk driver in Houston killed his father shortly after the war.  In 2007 Dewhurst discovered a museum that provided details of his father’s D-Day mission to provide aerial cover for the U.S. soldiers landing on Utah Beach.  After that, he decided to donate generously to the Utah Beach museum and seek out the rest of the members of his father’s outfit.  Dewhurst said he was certain that visiting the museums, beaches, and American Cemetery in Normandy would make every Normandy Scholar “proud to be an American,” which it indeed did.  

See also:

The Normandy Scholar Program on World War II, on Not Even Past:

Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program on World War II page:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst shares story of lost father, World War II veteran:

WWII bomber plane flies Normandy Scholars above UT:

Normandy Scholar Program takes 22nd trip to WWII-related sites in Europe:

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