Fredrick Suppe is an associate professor of history and the assistant chair to the Department of History. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in 1969 from Princeton University. Sandi Garcia, Photo Provided
Where they were before: Professor has studied, taught, experienced history
Surrounded by hundreds of books, articles and manuscripts, his words are powered by his passion for his studies. Sitting in his office in the Burkhardt Building, Frederick Suppe immerses himself in his favorite subject: history.
Suppe, an associate professor of history and the assistant chair to the Department of History, is from the East Coast.
“I grew up in Upstate New York so when somebody from New York tells you that, it means not New York City,” Suppe said. “It’s a place called Schenectady, it’s halfway between New York and Montreal. It’s sort of like Muncie in a way, it’s Muncie size.”
Suppe has always been interested in history and has a curiosity for other languages, cultures and ideas, so when it was time for college he applied to a variety of schools that could offer him the best education in those areas.
He decided to study at Princeton University, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in 1969 and began to travel the world.
Suppe became part of the Fulbright Fellowship Organization, which allows students to study abroad. Suppe chose to attend the University of Wales for two years and now considers Wales his “second home.”
“When I go back to Wales and I hear Welsh being spoken and see the signs in Welsh I feel very at home there because I’ve lived there,” he said. “I understand the society. The Welsh people like their language and their poetry and music and puns.”
After his junior year in college, Suppe decided to live and work in Colon, Germany for the summer to improve his German, which he started learning in high school.
In Colon, Suppe worked as a tri-lingual bank teller where and began to acquire his understanding of many different languages. As a bank employee, he was required to speak basic French, English and German.
He still knows French and German, and now understands Latin, medieval Latin, Middle Welsh and Irish.
“I encourage Ball State students to study abroad. It’s a good thing because you learn about some foreign countries, including how they do things a little bit differently,” Suppe said. “It also gets you to think about your own culture here in America.”
In traveling, Suppe has visited places such as Edinburgh, Munich, Dublin and Cork, where he has witnessed history as it happened.
“I was actually in Germany when East and West Berlin reunited and I actually bought the German version of TIME Magazine and I still have it at home,” he said.
The year he graduated from college, his sister graduated from high school and his parents had their 25th anniversary, but instead of buying each other gifts they decided to save money to travel even more of the world.
After traveling with his family, Suppe attended the University of Minnesota and graduated with his master’s degree and doctorate, specializing in medieval history. Suppe stayed at the university as a professor for 15 years where he taught a variety of courses in Welsh, irish and Scottish history.
In 2001, he came to Ball State where he met his wife, Ann Blakey, who is a biology professor.
“I remember meeting Fred in great detail to the date — the weather, the drive to the EB Ball Center and even the crab dip served at the Honors College fall faculty gathering,” Blakey said. “I found the meeting to be very humorous with tall, thin Fred standing next to the shorter, more rubenesque Dr. King, particularly with his handle-bar mustache, tweed coat with suede elbow patches and corduroy trousers.
“He reminded me of Mr. Chips from the 1969 version of the movie ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips.’”
It has been 16 years since the day the couple met, and they now have a dog and three cats.
“The dog tries to look after the cats,” Suppe said. “The dog thinks she’s in charge and the cat’s don’t agree.”
Currently, Suppe said he doesn’t just teach history. He also studies it and tries to connect his knowledge in it with other areas of study like archeology.
“For a couple of summers I participated in an archeological dig on the River Daniel in southern Germany,” Suppe said. “I was hanging out with a bunch of archeologists who were excavating a Celtic site, Kelheim.”
Suppe and another professor wrote an article about the excavation, and he has also written a book with multiple volumes on Welsh military history as well as reviewed and edited various journals and books.
As a professor, Suppe enjoys teaching courses that cover a variety of topics and continue his learning through his students.
“It gives me a legitimate reason to continue to learn more about the things that interest me, but it’s also really satisfying to help students learn about it too,” he said. “Although I know a lot about Celtic history, I continue to learn more from my students and it’s kind of fun guiding them.”
Suppe also enjoys showcasing his medieval music skills to his students. During many of his classes, he brings his recorder to show students what music sounded like in medieval times.
“I started doing this when I was in Wales. I really got enthusiastic and bought many of my recorders from when I was living over there,” he said. “I have over a dozen recorders, and also an instrument called a crumhorn.”
He also plays regular recorder music for the public as part of a musical group, the White River Recorder Ensemble, which includes four other members and on the first weekend of December, the group will be playing at the Minnetrista cultural center.
In the near future, however, Suppe hopes to be able to take time off to finish a book he is working on which covers the entire history of the Celtic peoples.
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