Dr. Birdsall Viault '54: Alumnus, Past Faculty Member, Ruth S. Harley Society Member
Dr. Birdsall Viault '54 decided to include Adelphi in his estate plans because he recognized what his gift meant to the University. "A relatively small bequest can make a big difference," he says.
You have been a loyal donor to Adelphi for more than 20 years. Why do you give to the University?
Because Adelphi has given so much to me. It opened so many opportunities, which led to so many things in my life. I have a commitment to this institution. I am a firm believer that a modest contribution can have a real impact. Along with the contributions of others, a smaller gift can make a big impression. I want to be a part of that.
What clubs or activities were you involved in at Adelphi?
Lots of different things. My freshman year I was manager of the varsity basketball team; that was a wonderful experience and it was something quite different from anything I had ever done before. I was on the staff of The Oracle for awhile; and I was an active member of the German Club, Die Bodenrunde, and of the History Club; and I also served on the Judicial Board. I was a member of Omega Delta Chi fraternity and served a term as treasurer. I was also a member of Flambeau and Delta Phi Alpha.
Who were your favorite professors?
I have very warm memories of history professors Chester Barrows and Robert Ernst, as well as of Grafton Nealley, who taught government. I was an education major and several of the professors in the department were very helpful to me, especially Agnes Snyder and Thomas Alexander. At Adelphi I participated in the University's New Teacher Education Program (ANTEP), which required a period of foreign study. Thanks to Dr. Alexander, I received a scholarship that enabled me to spend not only one, but two semesters studying at the University of Tuebingen in southern Germany. It was a wonderful experience, and I am still in contact with several close German friends from that time.
After receiving your bachelor's degree in education and your master's degree in history from Adelphi, you returned to your alma mater to teach.
I decided in high school that I wanted to be a social studies teacher. Then at Adelphi I realized it would be great to teach at the college level, and that is what I set out to do. I joined the faculty of Adelphi's history department in 1959, having completed everything but my dissertation for my Ph.D. in history from Duke University. I received my degree in 1963 and remained at Adelphi for five more years. I went on to spend the next 291/2 years at Winthrop University in South Carolina, retiring as professor emeritus in 1997.
Greatest professional accomplishment:
While my primary focus throughout my career was always on teaching, working in academia also allowed me to write scholarly articles and book reviews, which were published in journals in the United States and Europe. While teaching at Winthrop University, I had the opportunity to author four McGraw-Hill books, one of which is still in print after more than 20 years. I'm very proud of Modern European History, which high school students have discovered is useful in preparing for the European History AP exam. Reading reviews of my book written by students who found it to be a helpful resource has been most gratifying for me.
What message would you like to share with fellow Adelphi alumni?
Remember the experience you had at the University and the people there who touched your life and helped you in so many ways. Consider expressing some appreciation for that. Even making a modest gift is something important you can do for your alma mater. While $25, $50 or $100 might not seem like a tremendous amount of money, if 1,000 people gave that, we could make a significant difference at Adelphi.