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Dr. Andrew Tunyogi, Professor Emeritus, served ODU from 1958-1973 as a faculty member and first Chair of the Philosophy Department. Before coming to ODU, he was a minister. The interview discusses his background in Transylvania, Budapest, England, and Czechoslovakia. He discusses ODU in the 1960s -- its buildings, students, library, Bud's Emporium, etc.

Oral History Interview


Norfolk, Virginia
March 7, 1983
by Dr. Peter Stewart, Old Dominion University

Listen to Interview

Stewart: Dr. Tunyogi, I wonder if you could you tell us about your background? I know you came from Hungary many years ago. I was wondering what your background was before you came to this country.

Tunyogi: Well, I did not come exactly from Hungary. I came from Transylvania, which was a part of Hungary for 1,000 years and now it belongs to Romania. I got my education there, up through seminary. And I also was a minister in Transylvania. Before that, I went to Cambridge, in England, where I did some post-graduate studies. It was in 1936 that we left Transylvania and went up to Budapest, where I taught in a small college. Before that for two years and some months, anyway, I also taught in a seminary in Czechoslovakia. I got all of my degrees in Hungary at the University of Debrecen. When the war broke out and the Russians approached Budapest, I had no congregation. After all, I was a minister of course, but I had no congregation, but we were permitted to leave Budapest, which we did. We decided that we were going to go off the map and that we were not going to meet the Russians. Then, we arrived in small German towns which were between Regensburg and Nuremberg, and from there we stayed -- and in eighty days, the Americans arrived. There we spent six years in Germany. I served as a liaison between the Americans and the -- the Hungarians and the Americans and the Hungarians and Germans. We were helped by the World Council of Churches, and we organized something like the Presbyterian Churches. There I spent-- we spent six years in Germany. And eventually I recieved an affitdavit from the __________________, which, however, turned out not to be true. So, we were taken to a small town in Sunman, Indiana. They were very nice people and helped us in every respect, and there we spent seven months. After seven months, I was recieved into the local Presbytery, and __________ applied for a church, which I did. And eventually I got a church in Cincinnati. And there we stayed for six years. Then, I was able to go to Pikeville College in eastern Kentucky, which is a Presbyterian College but it was a very _______ school. Probably the president wasn't quite normal, I don't know of course, but he ______ _______ doctors although he needed doctors badly. Then, after two years, I received a call here to the Norfolk College of William and Mary. Then, I went to another school [rest of sentence is inaudible] Then, it became another schoolas you know--the Norfolk College of William and Mary, and so on, until it became Old Dominion University. Well, when I arrived President --I told President Webb, (he was not president, provost, don't worry) told my story and he was very, very friendly. He gave me an opportunity to teach in the summer school, to have something to eat for my family and myself. But the campus was very poor. We had the old Science Building and the old Administration Building. We had about 1,000 students and about 85 faculty.

Stewart: About when was this that you first came?

Tunyogi: It was in 1968, and we came here. We came to this country in 1960. So, I grew and grew and grew with the college. The college became larger and larger. In the middle of the 1960's, (I can't remember the exact date) the Old--the Philosophy Department was organized and I became the glorious first chairman of the department!


The department also grew; we received more and more professors. And eventually in 1974, I retired and I wasn't very happy about it. [inaudible sentence]
The university can't do anything _____. And since then, I'm teaching here and there, a course or something like that at the university. So, this is, in short, my life story.

Stewart: That is a fascinating story. Let me go back and talk about some of the people perhaps you met here when you first came. Do you recall any of the individuals, besides President Webb you mentioned, with whom you worked closely with?

Tunyogi: Dean Peele was here, Stan Pliska, I think he was the top of the humanities, Bill Spencer,... There was one philosophy man, Dall(?) or some name, I don't know [rest of the sentence is inaudible]. The Sterns, Gerald Akers, and some old faculty.

Stewart: A smaller faculty existed then, as compared to when you left when the faculty had been enlarged considerably and so had the student body. Was it a fairly close-knit faculty?

Tunyogi: Oh yes - it was a very close-knit faculty. We had parties and we visited each other, and so forth. It was a wonderful life and everything. It was exactly that year that the old library - the Hughes building was under construction. Otherwise the whole area was really nothing but ... not that it is small but that it was small.

Stewart: When you first came the only part, let's see, of the campus that really exists today would be the old part that looks like William and Mary. There were a lot of wooden buildings.

Tunyogi: Yes, we had the old buildings of St. Helena College. I taught in those.

Stewart: Do you recall any of your students? Things that you particularly--fondly remember _____ ______.

Tunyogi: I had a brilliant, brilliant student who is down at North Carolina at the university. The name, name ... was Turner or something like that. Anyway, I never had a student in my life who was so brilliant. He's an anthropologist and he's a fine young professor.

Stewart: So he was one of our products?

Tunyogi: Yes.

Stewart: Do you recall any of the others through the years or any of the student activities that you participated in or watched?

Tunyogi: I remember for example, we had a librarian _____ _____, we had 13,000 books I asked him, "May I order books?" and he said, "yes, you may but excluded are such books that are going to used by the students." Back then, most of the departments did not order books from the library, so some money left over every year. The librarian gave me that money so, I ordered books for philosophy. It was very pleasing to me, for example, when Dr. Ford came here to take a look at the library. He said, "Wow, we have a beautiful collection. It's all right for a master's degree." Now, of course--even now days, I do order some books, but not as many as I did.

Stewart: What were the fields that you specialized in, I assume religion?

Tunyogi: Of course, my degree, and I was the only man with this degree on the faculty. It is not Doctor of Philosophy; it is Doctor of Theology. Of course, I'm not trying to brag, but the fact is, that in Europe, a Doctor of Theology is somewhat more highly estimated than a Doctor of Philosophy. So, my specific field, of which I wrote my doctoral dissertation, was Old Testament. Of course, I did teach New Testament, but If you are in Theology and in


the seminary in Europe, you neccessarly have to take some philosophy, so I did have some philosophy, also. But, to be--to be sure, I wasn't really quite qualified to top--to teach high philosophy on a higher level. So, as soon as the _____ was possible to get the [rest of the sentence inaudible]. I taught the History of Philosophy or the Introduction to Philosophy for some time. I just gave it over to the youngsters.

Stewart: The Philosophy Department has developed considerably since you were first here.

Tunyogi: Yes - now we have about fourteen full-time professors.

Stewart: There were two When you came here, you made the second member of that emerging department?

Tunyogi: There was no department.

Stewart: Right, it wasn't a department, it was all a part of the social sciences, I guess. The Social Studies building, it was called - the old barracks. Do you recall anything about other campus experiences? You talked about the library, did you work with any of the committees, or any other aspect of campus life?

Tunyogi: I don't know if you remember the old Bud's Emporium? That place was always jammed, because it was small. At that time, it wasn't permitted to drink anything--any alcoholic beverages on the campus. But still, Bud's was always full and crowded. Of course, it was not a joy to take a walk on campus because the campus was just miserable. The construction was going on, always pounding and pounding but it made those at least, for whom the buildings were being built, very happy. I can tell you an anecdote about the building of this - the Arts and Letters Building. Of course, Dean Peele was very happy about this because he participated in the planning and what not. And this is a true anecdote because it was told by somebody who was present. And it happened that Dean Peele went to President Webb and showed him the plan. And showed it was designed in such a way that the higher you went up, the less activity you got. So, most activity you get is on the first three floors because this is where you find the classrooms. Then, you get the faculty offices further up, where there isn't as much activity. President Webb asked, "what was at the top?," and then he said, "the dean's activity." "Oh, I see." Dean Peele was very happy with that building. [Inaudible sentence] My Philosophy Department was in the Mechanics Building, across Hampton Boulevard. It was a small, dilapidated house.

Stewart: How long did you stay in that house - the department headquarters?

Tunyogi: I think we stayed there about three years, maybe four years. We had at that time, four professors.

Stewart: What buildings did you teach in? Do you remember, they were scattered all over, I guess?

Tunyogi: Well, I taught in the old St. Helena buildings, in ______, the Mechanics Building, and I taught even in the Engineering Building. They were scattered from one place to another, wherever there was room.

Stewart: Do you continue now,to have a church that you run?

Tunyogi: Oh,no - I am retired completely, but I taught this semester, one course. I've published two books since I've been here and now I'm very busy translating one of the books into Hungarian.


The Transylvanian Reform Church promised or wants me to translate, because they want to publish it. So, probably next semester I'm not going to teach as I will be busy with translating that book.

Stewart: For many years, were you not--weren't you responsible for a church in this area?

Tunyogi: No, of course not, you can't have both.

Stewart: But you were active in the church, right?

Tunyogi: Oh Yes, I'm active. I have a Bible class, but I don't preach, now. I'm too old, you see. If I had to--to lead only a sermon it would be all right, but to go through all those motions of leading a service makes you nervous. Three days ago I had my 76th birthday.

Stewart: You've had quite a life, indeed. Do you have any last thoughts about what life was like at Old Dominion in the years that you were here?

Tunyogi: The students used to have dances on campus and they had to have chaperones. I was also a chaperone. Girls could not to come to class except in skirts. We had a charming--I can't remember her name--we had a very charming dean of girls, and she was very strict in this respect. Now, they wear shorts.

Stewart: Well, that shouldn't disturb us too much, do you think?

Tunyogi: Oh no - I'm too old for that.

Stewart: Thank you very much, Dr. Tunyogi, for an interesting interview.

Interview Information

[Note: an interview with Dr. Tunyogi was conducted on April 7, 1976, but the tape is inaudible, and it had not been transcribed.]

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