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His colleagues at Carolina agree that he is the most distinguished living alumnus of our graduate program in English. Within two decades of completing his doctorate, Robinson had held faculty appointments at Stanford, Cornell and Yale, and had been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America. Over the course of his career, Robinson has been a philologist in its original sense — a lover of words. His ability to bring to life old words from the past, in turn, underlies his criticism of literature in English in all periods. His reputation is based not just on his large output of scholarly books and articles, but more so on the quality and originality of the research they contain. Almost everything he has written has contributed new knowledge and perspectives to the field. His scholarship ranges from editions of Old English works, a major literary reappraisal of “Beowulfi’ philological notes and an introductory grammar for students of Old English. All these endeavors have been informed by meticulous scholarship, judicious interpretative skills and a broad humanistic approach to Old English language and literature. His contributions to scholarship have been recognized by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Haskins Medal of the Medieval Academy of America and the Sir Israel Gollancz Prize of the British Academy. Robinson’s excellence as a teacher won for him Yale University’s William Clyde DeVane Medal in undergraduate teaching and is further evidenced by the distinguished company of scholars who pursued graduate studies under his direction.
The Pennsylvania German, in early Colonial days, was not a great political factor in the life of the Commonwealth. Coming from where there was no chance for political activity, from a gov- ernment that was despotic, and where the country folk had no voice in the affairs of state, it is not surprising that they did not seek public office, but, on the other hand, preferred the quiet and peace of these early days in their new homes. Living in com- munities of their own, they clung to their native tongue, some of the older ones never acquiring a knowledge of English, which in a way rendered them ineligible for holding a high public office in an English colony. Hence, up to the Revolutionary War, the political activity of these people was confined largely to local affairs. They loved freedom more than they hated war, these scions of that sturdy race who, as Germans, overthrew the Roman Empire, and as Dutch, broke the power of Spain. But the loyalty of these people to the American cause was unquestioned. The Mennonites, while opposed to war from religious principles, in numerous cases furnished supplies and money to the Continental Army, though they, like the Quakers, refrained steadfastly from taking up arms. However, the sturdy Protestant of the Reformed and Lutheran faiths were not slow nor reluctant to take up arms against a foe when their homes and new-found liberties were endangered. As the dark days of the war approached and the various con- ventions met in Philadelphia, 1775-1776, a large proportion of the delegates sent from Berks, Lancaster, Northampton, and other counties were of German blood. They entered heartily into the conflict, though, owing to their lack of knowledge of the English language, few rose to high office, either civil or military; still no braver body of men went forth from hillside and valley to defend their homes in the name of God and freedom.