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URBANA — Ruth Lorbe, 95, passed away Wednesday (Sept. 30, 2020) in Urbana.

Ruth Lorbe was born on May 2, 1925, in Nürnberg, Germany, the daughter of Karl and Johanna Lorbe.

She is survived by her siblings, Irmgard Wagner of Switzerland, Erika White of England and Walter Lorbe of Switzerland.

Ruth Lorbe grew up in Nürnberg, where she and her family endured the horrors of the Second World War. On Jan. 2, 1945, her family’s house was struck by bombs, but the family survived. When peace was declared and the universities reopened, Ruth Lorbe started her university studies, first at the University of Erlangen and subsequently at the University of Marburg. There she studied German, history and English, and in 1952 was awarded the degree doctor of philosophy.  

She held a teaching position at the Gymnasium, a secondary school in Nürnberg, in the years 1952-54. From 1954 to 1955, she was lecturer of German at University College of North Staffordshire in Keele, England. Subsequently, she returned to the Gymnasium in Nürnberg, where, in a tenured position, she taught in the years 1955-60 and again 1962-64. Her teaching in Nürnberg was interrupted by a two-year visiting instructorship at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in the years 1960-62. She returned to the University of Illinois in 1964 as assistant professor of German. She was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 1966 and professor in 1972. In 1976, Ruth Lorbe became an American citizen. She retired as professor emerita in 1996.

Ruth Lorbe’s publications, in the form of both articles and books, focused on early 20th-century German literature, especially lyric poetry and the German short story. She was a renowned expert on German children’s songs, and her 1971 book on the world of children’s songs in her home town of Nürnberg became a classic. In the course of a long career, she gave many lectures at scholarly conferences and institutions both in the United State and abroad. In the years 1977-1991, she repeatedly lectured in the Deutsche Sommerschule of New Mexico, a German summer school that has taken place in Taos, N.M., since its founding in 1975 by her doctoral student Peter Pabisch (Ph.D. 1954, UI), a professor at the University of New Mexico. Ruth relished the opportunity to spend several weeks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, teaching, hiking and enjoying the culture of the Southwest.

Ruth Lorbe was a beloved teacher, specializing in German lyric poetry and turn-of-the-century literature, especially art nouveau. She was advisrr for many honors theses and 11 doctoral dissertations. She received a number of the university’s teaching awards, including the LAS Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1983. A high point of her teaching career and that of many music students was a seminar she conducted in the 1990s in collaboration with Professor John Wustman of the Music School in preparation for a series of concerts. In addition to her regular teaching duties, and unremunerated, Ruth Lorbe introduced young singers every Friday to the texts of some 500 German poems set to music by Franz Schubert. In the concerts that followed over the course of seven years, audiences heard for the first time young singers who were to achieve important musical careers, among them the internationally acclaimed Nathan Gunn.

Ruth Lorbe was known for her kindness and generosity, admired and beloved by her colleagues and students alike.

Condolences may be offered at renner-wikoffchapel.com.

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