Clarksville, TN – Dr. Dewey Browder, retired chair of the Austin Peay State University Department of History and Philosophy, is interested in all things European. He is particularly fond of German foods, and among the delicacies he favors are Schnecken, which are more commonly known here by the French name “escargots.”
In his living room, which is crowded with books on European history, dozens of German nutcrackers stand on the mantle to commemorate the holiday season.Browder’s wife, Helga, calls them “Dewey’s soldiers,” a nod to his previous career as an officer in the U.S. Army.
The Browders live on a quiet suburban street in Clarksville’s St. Bethlehem community, but the little flourishes in their home, such as the strong coffee they serve, give it the feel of a European household. That isn’t a surprise, since the Browders are some of the area’s strongest champions of that continent.
Helga was born in Germany, growing up in a rural village in Bavaria, and Browder spent the last 19 years taking college students on a study abroad trip called “European Culture and the Holocaust.” Over the years, he led more than 300 students to Europe.
“The students who have been over there with Dewey just love it,” Helga said. “It (traveling) helps you look at the world differently. It opens your mind. You’re not just thinking about your backyard or your hometown.”
Recently, Browder has started asking young men and women about European influences on our own history—questions that were once considered common knowledge to most Americans—and their responses have troubled him.
“For the last several years I’ve become increasingly concerned that American students are losing sight of our origins,” he said. “So many things that have shaped the modern world—everything from the Renaissance, to the Reformation and Counter Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Democratic Revolution—came from Europe. Judaeo-Christian values shaped America’s foundations, and those values were passed to us through Europe. Christianity was the glue that held society together throughout the Middle Ages. The mighty cathedral spires with stained glass windows in Paris, Rome, Cologne and Vienna are examples of this heritage. All these things represent ideas that are America’s roots.”
In an effort to reacquaint hard-working college students with their European heritage, the Browders recently presented APSU with an endowment to create the Browder Family Scholarship in European Studies.
“We just want students to have an exposure to European languages, an exposure to European history, European literature, European thought,” Browder said. “We want them to remember how America got started.”
The recipient must also take at least one European history or European foreign language course during the semester the scholarship is awarded, and the money can be used for students to pursue APSU study abroad opportunities in Europe.
“We just want to make sure people still study the different cultures of Europe,” Helga said.
While growing up, the Browders also didn’t have much knowledge of the wider world. Helga’s village in Bavaria had a population of about 300 people, and she had to strap on a pair of skis to make it to school in the winter.
Browder grew up on a small farm near Tightwad, Missouri—a town supposedly named after a disputed financial transaction involving either a watermelon or a rooster. The couple has now visited more than 30 countries around the world.
“I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, and so was Dewey,” Helga said. “We really appreciate higher learning, so we hope this helps someone along.”
Both Browders are members of the Phi Kappa Phi academic honor society, and the scholarship recipient will be announced at APSU’s annual Phi Kappa Phi Award Ceremony in the spring. Students do not need to be Phi Kappa Phi members to apply, but they do need to attend the ceremony.
“We really think the world of Austin Peay,” Helga said. “We want to support it anyway we can, and this is one way to do it.”