Tribute to E. Adelaide Hahn
Irving Kizner (Hunter College High School, The Spence School, Hunter College)

E. Adelaide Hahn
Credit: Archives & Special Collections of Hunter College Libraries

My first contact with Prof. Hahn was over the phone in 1955 when I called Hunter College to find about about graduate courses in the Classics and about rules concerning the transfer of credits from Columbia U. where I had studied for a year before entering the army. Her enthusiasm was almost enough to pull me through the telephone wires into her office. When I saw her a few days later, her enthusiasm had not lessened. She "walked" me through the application process, suggested a course of study, and guaranteed me that she would see to it that credits would be transferred from my earlier studies. I started taking courses in September, 1955 at Hunter College and was fortunate to be in Prof. Hahn's Lucretius class. In one sitting I determined that I was being exposed to a mind of limitless brilliance and to an instructor who was able to convey that brilliance to her students with ease. Prof. Hahn did not have a voice which could be described as “mellifluous,” but I and the other students absorbed every word she uttered. She had a habit of writing on the board while still sitting, which resulted in her use of only the lower part of the board. She was expert at separating her many entries on the board with appropriate horizontal or vertical lines. She often appeared to be looking at a spot on the far wall or on the ceiling, apparently preparing to put forward one of her many brilliant comments. Indeed, many of her comments were brilliant. She was equally at home with Latin, Greek and, of course, Linguistics.

She spoke to the Chair of the Latin Department of Hunter College High School about me, without my knowing that she did so, which resulted in an offer from the high school to teach, as a substitute, for 5 days in April, 1956. I did so and remained for 29 years more, until June, 1985.

When I had completed the courses I was told that I would need for an MA from Hunter College, I was informed by the registrar that I was 3 credits short. I notified Prof. Hahn, who took me by the hand to the registrar's office. She apparently frightened every one she spoke to, from the receptionist at the door to the registrar himself in his office. She was a combination of Cicero and Demosthenes—I left with 5 transferred credits and was awarded the MA degree in 1958.

One last item: in the winter of 1963 she asked me to teach in the evening session of Hunter College. She observed me in the spring and in her written observation took me to task for not emphasizine and explaining the long “i” in the present subjunctive of esse. She spent 1 page discussing that “i”and ended by suggesting that I be kept on as an adjunct lecturer because I obviously knew how to teach. I remained in that position for 32 years.

One further comment: after she retired and after she passed away, a photographic portrait of her was placed on the wall in the Classics Department office. That portrait was referred to as the “deified Hahn.” It was said with due respect for such a worthy scholar, teacher, administrator and colleague.

Irving Kizner
October, 2007