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In Memory

Harry Rosenberg, retired history professor and administrator, died Sept. 9

September 11, 2010

Harry Rosenberg was a devoted father and grandfather who cherished time with his family. Few people attracted more lasting friendships.

A memorial service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 531 S. College Avenue in Fort Collins, on Sept. 14 at 2 p.m.

Harry Rosenberg died in Poudre Valley Hospital on Sept. 9, 2010, after a determined struggle against prolonged illness. Surviving family members include his wife, Nancy Hart; children Stephen and Stanley Rosenberg (wife Joy) and Susan Nord (husband Michael); and grandchildren Jennifer Bockman, and Adeline and Ethan Rosenberg. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Adeline Steinberg Rosenberg. Harry also left a plethora of friends – Colorado State University colleagues and students and countless others outside the CSU community – many of whom he influenced in lastingly positive ways.

Harry was born on March 22, 1923, in Toledo, Ohio, to William Rosenberg and Rose Sochet. Both were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Lithuania, respectively.

William Rosenberg was a resourceful and ambitious businessman whose enterprises included tailoring plus a general store and apartment house ownership. In 1928 he moved his family to Utah, settling first in Salt Lake City and subsequently in Vernal, a predominately Mormon community where few Jews resided.

Life as a bibliophile

As an only child, Harry’s parents provided him with encouragement and security. Although neither was formally educated, they saw education for their son as a key to achieving success in America. His mother took particular pride in a certificate Harry was awarded in fourth grade by the Uintah County superintendent of schools for reading the most books and writing the best reviews of any student in the district. His life as a bibliophile and scholar was launched. Also notable was the start of a lifelong passion for spectator sports. With great pride he often cited his tenure as batboy for the Vernal Merchants baseball team as the start of this pleasurable diversion.

In 1938, William Rosenberg decided to sell his Utah properties and move to Los Angeles. There, Harry attended junior and senior high school, and met Adeline Steinberg. Two years passed before he asked her for a date, but the effect was life changing. Not only did they continue to date, but Adeline, a gifted singer and classical music devotee, took Harry to his first symphony concerts. Their shared love of good music contributed incalculably to their relationship. Also notable was Adeline’s interest in the First Hebrew Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles – an evangelical Protestant congregation that caused them both to break from their traditional Jewish heritage. This conversion to Christianity would profoundly affect Harry spiritually and professionally.

War and history

By this time the United States had entered World War II and Harry, despite the loss of an eye in a childhood automobile accident, received a special waiver to enlist in the Army Air Corps (1942-46). This led to clerical service with 306th Bomb Group in England. An important concomitant of military duty in Great Britain was exposure to local historic sites and culture. For example, a visit to York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, aroused a compelling curiosity about ancient and medieval history. And this interest was reinforced by a trip to a Cambridge book store, at which he bought an 1825 edition of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for five pounds—a purchase that Harry described as “vital in terms of my future.”

Half-century at CSU

Following his discharge, in 1947 Harry married Adeline Steinberg and used his G.I. Bill support to study medieval history and literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Before earning his Ph.D., he taught briefly at Stanford University and the University of Washington, and in 1959 accepted a faculty position to teach history at Colorado State University. His career at CSU would span nearly half a century and feature some remarkable contributions to the school and the Fort Collins community.

From 1965-1975, he served as the first chairman of a new Department of History, building it from a faculty of 12 to 21 members and making it a solid contributor to liberal arts education at CSU. In 1962, he began more than four decades of service to the Faculty Council that included two terms as chairman. In 1979, Harry’s love of books found expression in his involvement with CSU Library Associates, which he served as president. In 1984, he became coordinator of the American West Program, a distinguished summer lecture series that enhanced the intellectual vitality of the university and surrounding community.

Also notable was the service Harry and Adeline rendered to the Fort Collins Symphony. Adeline played a key role in promotional and fundraising efforts of the Women’s Guild, and Harry contributed significantly as a member and president of the symphony’s governing board. After Adeline’s death in 1983, an Adeline Rosenberg Prize was established to encourage an annual Young Artist competition. The leadership provided by the Rosenbergs helped to shape the Fort Collins Symphony into an invaluable community cultural resource.

Lifetime scholar and mentor

In the midst of these achievements, Harry was a serious scholar, well read and intellectually curious. His books and articles on various aspects of church history were assiduously researched and gracefully written, and scores of reviews in academic journals reflected a solid grasp of the literature in his field. Above all, Harry was a remarkable mentor to countless students who took his classes and benefited from his guidance, as well as junior colleagues whom he diligently helped to advance professionally.

Gracious, good-humored and smart—consistently competent in nearly every task he undertook—Harry Rosenberg’s legacy warrants special recognition, and there were awards that reflected an appreciation for his manifold achievements. These included the Panhellenic Council Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year (1962), the Student Honors Council Honors Prof designation (1976), the CSU Alumni Association Charles A. Lory Public Service Award (1991), the Fort Collins Historical Society Distinguished Service Award (1997), the CSU Alumni Associates Distinguished Professor Award (1998) , and the CSU College of Liberal Arts John N. Stern Distinguished Service Award (1998).

Surpassing these formal accolades, however, were personal relationships that Harry forged. He was a devoted father and grandfather who cherished time with his family. Also, few people attracted more lasting friendships. Those who knew Harry Rosenberg will always miss him.

A memorial service for Harry Rosenberg will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 531 S. College Avenue in Fort Collins, on Sept. 14 at 2 p.m.

Donations in Harry’s name may be given to the CSU History department’s Harry Rosenberg Scholarship Fund, c/o the CSU Foundation, 410 University Services Center, Fort Collins, CO 80521-9100 or the Adeline and Harry Rosenberg Endowment (Fort Collins Symphony) 4745 Wheaton Drive, Suite 100, Fort Collins, CO 80525.