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Professor Bryan Ganaway

Professor Bryan Ganaway

Preserving Memories of World War II's "Greatest Generation"
By Cher Coburn

"I want to allow people to view their current concerns through the prisms of the past," explains history professor Dr. Bryan Ganaway when speaking of the courses he teaches about World War I and II.

Both of his grandgathers served in World War II although they rarely discussed it, Ganaway says. He recalls one grandfather, who was in

combat 18 months in the Pacific, telling him that by the end they were all so deparved that he "was more afraid of the men in his tent than the Japanese."

After completing both an undergraduate and graduate degree at the University of Miami, Ganaway successfully obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. Prior to arriving on our campus, Ganaway taught at South Carolina's Presbyterian College for three years.

He has studied extensively and written a book about Germany titled, "Toys, Consumption and Middle Class Childhood in Imperial Germany, 1871-1918." It will be published by Peter Lang in September 2008.

Ganaway says he is ambivalent about being the "war" guy on campus but says he understands that the two world wars are of great interest to students. He has concerns these wars have become too politicized by politicians and the media. He strived to help young people understand the actual events in these great history-changing conflicts.

To help in this mission, Ganaway and the History Department applied for and won a grant designed to make oral interviews a part of the in-class experience. He says it provides tangible experience for the students and help put the war in perspective for them.

Ganaway is also recording interviews with the veterans for posperity. These will be sent to the Library of Congress but copies will also be retained at the College's Addlestone Library. Eventually he hopes to work with the school's archivist to digitize them, making the reminiscences of veterans and civilians from the Lowcountry available to researchers all over the world.

Attuned to the College's mission of undergraduate research, Ganaway says students are receiving a truly unique experience which combines good pedagogy and civic engagement. The project is designed to bridge generational divides and connect the college to the broader community.

"America has lost its mojo or its self-confidence and willingness to try new things," in recent years, Ganaway contends. He added how it saddens him to think that his daughters and students may never grow up in the same optimistic and open environment he experienced in 1990s America. His hope is to give his students and his own children more of the willingness and confidence to cultivate and experiment in life that his own parents instilled in him.

Ganaway's mixed mission of the past and the present seems to be working. One student remarked, "Dr. Ganaway helps provide a big picture," and another stated, "It's never a boring class and nice to have a professor so excited about his subject."

While teaching multiple courses and raising a family Ganaway managed to find the time to write a book on toys and consumption in Germany during the time period of 1871-1918. It discusses how purchases can define people even if unintentional and in this time period in Germany parents bought children toys to define them based on their social class and gender.

These are concepts Ganaway and his wife Irina, also a professor in the history department, hope to avoid with their 3 year-old Mila and soon arriving baby girl due in August.