Former university historian dies

Story by Kyle Davis

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On the surface, many Baker University students saw an elderly man, wearing a stocking cap and coat, eating in Allen Dining Hall.

But under the surface, those students were looking at years of BU history.

The man eating among the students was Harold Kolling, who died Friday at the age of 90. Kolling arrived at Baker in 1978, when he was hired as the university historian.

“I guess the thing that struck me most of all was what a great academic he was and what a great intellect he possessed,” University Minister Ira DeSpain said. “He had a mind that was able to interpret history in some important ways.”

Along with being the historian, Kolling also taught several history classes during his time at Baker.

“Every conversation with him was something that  … was priceless because he was such a true scholar, and he knew so much,” John Richards, assistant professor of history, said.

Kolling was known for having a great remembrance of detail of the history of Baker, as well as being popular with the students. Kolling remained close with many of his students for years after

their graduation.

Kolling spent more time on campus than just in the cafeteria, as he lived in an apartment in Jolliffe Hall for many years.

“I think he should be remembered as a member of the community who spent a lot of time researching Baker and really loved Baker and everything it stood for,” Darrell Bowersox, director of dining services, said.

Richards was never in a class of Kolling’s, and instead got to know Kolling in the archives while he was the historian. However, Kolling later made appearances in Richards’s classes to listen and participate in the discussion.

“I think the way he treated history in the classroom and, to people who had conversations with him, really taught students about what history really is, rather than just a topic full of information,” Richards said.

While some students may only recognized Kolling eating in Allen Dining Hall, others saw him as a fixture of Baker University’s history.

“I think, in one sense, every college needs a Dr. Kolling,” DeSpain said, “who is sort of an elder statesman, who connects us with our past, keeps in perspective where we’ve been, so we can see better where we’re going.”