David Savage is a scholar of British colonial history in India, and his interest in that country has grown with his research and his involvement in the overseas study program at the College.
About 10 years ago, Savage revised the College’s study program in India, selecting new locations for travel and study. He and his wife, Carolyn, have supervised three groups of students along the route Savage carved, which includes Hindi study at the Landaur Language School in the foothills of the Himalayas and homestays in Jaipur.
“Study in India provides a particularly acute opportunity for students to confront differences and to try to puzzle out what they see as they travel through the country,” Savage says. “My hope has been that they come away from the experience with a real understanding of India—one that’s sometimes tolerant and sometimes intolerant of things that are hard to bear.”
Each year at commencement, the Savages have hosted a breakfast for graduating students who went to India and their parents, and he and Carolyn maintain friendships with many former program participants. “Getting to know these students through the overseas experience, living with them, eating with them, is priceless,” says Savage.
Savage, who joined the College in 1972, has always made it a point to get to know the students he taught on campus. Janida Grima ’02, who majored in history and worked with Savage on her thesis about British missionaries in India, calls him one of the most important professors to her education—a sentiment shared by many of Savage’s former students. “I have known David for only two years, but he has been a very consistent figure in my life for those two years,” she says. “He cares a great deal for his students and ensuring that they do well at whatever they choose.”
For Jane Hunter, associate professor of history, Savage’s retirement means the departure of a colleague who helped create a talented history faculty and a rich academic community. “His legacy is his dedication to the liberal arts community, to the idea that we, faculty and students, can provide forums for great conversations of all kinds, both in and outside of the classroom,” she says. “Particularly with his trips to India and his sponsorship of international students, David has broken down divisions between what is considered an on- or off-campus activity.”
Savage is working on a history of the educational activities of British missionaries in India in the 19th and 20th centuries. Research for this book (and a wedding) will take him and his wife to India early next year. Savage’s retirement plans include working with Kalakendra, an organization that regularly brings prominent South Asian musicians to Portland, and the quarterly publication Open Spaces, for which he serves on the editorial board.
—by Jennifer Carter