No one impacted my life more than History Professor Carl Solberg. As a lecturer, Solberg was incredibly dynamic. He rarely used notes and was always excited about whatever topic he brought to his podium He had the unusual ability to make something like the history of the Argentine tariffs very compelling.
I still have vivid memories of a graduate colloquium he taught during fall quarter, 1971. Students had to conduct detailed research into some aspect of Argentine history and then discuss it while dealing with questions and criticism from their peers. It was a tough assignment and Solberg relished every moment, directing the whole production masterfully while giving each of us an unbelievable introduction to the world of history in the making.
Solberg was also a product of his times. Casual in dress, handsome and always in superb physical condition, one always detected enthusiasm as well as confidence. He drove a battered Volkswagen for many years and lived in modest apartments. Solberg was a bicycle enthusiast who loved the outdoors and was captivated by the beauty of the Northwest. I recall occasional complaints but in general he was satisfied with his role; in l970 he told me that he "had a good life--I make $14,000 a year." On the other hand, he was not reluctant to criticize the Vietnam War and for a time embraced the humane aspects of Marxism, particularly the regime of Chilean President Salvador Allende.
His personal life was wild and he did as much as possible to conceal it. He favored the sorts of nightclubs and taverns that had no windows. Although I was something of a bon vivant in those days, he left me in my tracks. Going into Seattle for a night on the town with him was real eye-opener.
It broke my heart when he died of AIDS in 1985. In severe pain, he was placed on several drugs, including morphine, until finally slipping away. Throughout a UW career that began in l966, he was extraordinarily enthusiastic about teaching and research and for that alone he was a respected colleague whose promotions received unanimous endorsement from the history department. Solberg's students twice nominated him for the University's Distinguished Teaching Award. It is a shame he never won that coveted prize because he certainly deserved it.
Professor Douglas W. Richmond, '68, '71, '76
Photo courtesy Dept. of History.
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