Dirk Baay, Aug. 12, at age 92. Dirk was professor emeritus of German at CC, where he taught for nearly a quarter-century.
Growing up in the Netherlands, Dirk learned to speak several languages. Soon after high school, he was sent by Nazi occupiers to work in Germany, where his fluency made him suited for an office job at a chemical company. Upon the ending of World War II, Dirk worked in a hospital as a translator for displaced people.
When he finally was able to begin pursuing higher education in West Germany, his scholarship was interrupted by a two-year bout with tuberculosis. He recovered, then came to the U.S. at the invitation of an uncle. He later became an American citizen.
Dirk earned his B.A. at Calvin College and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. He also taught at both places before spending a dozen years at Grinnell College; during a one-year sabbatical, he worked as a Fulbright professor of English at Cuttington College in Liberia.
Colorado College hired Dirk in 1966 to teach German and to chair the Department of German and Russian. According to fellow German professor Horst Richardson, who had arrived one year earlier, Dirk was tasked with leading the department out of hard times, “and did a very good job of this assignment.”
Dirk, Horst, and Armin Wishard formed the core of the department through the 1970s and ’80s. Describing his colleague’s teaching style years later, Armin would say of Dirk: “He had very strict standards and he adhered to them. He didn’t cut corners in his teaching. He knew what he wanted to accomplish and demanded a great deal of students, especially in literature, his greatest passion.”
A champion of interdisciplinary learning and study abroad programs, Dirk chaired CC’s Foreign Study Committee. He also served as president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and on the National Committee for the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages.
Outside of the realm of academics, Dirk sang in the Colorado Springs Chorale and refereed soccer games, including some CC games — where Horst served as men’s coach. That routinely led to spirited discussions before class on Monday mornings. In virtually any arena, Horst says, “He had a way with words. He could certainly argue a case and present an issue in a most articulate fashion.”
Horst adds of his longtime colleague, “He left his mark at Colorado College.”
Dirk is survived by his former wife and good friend, Muriel Baay; his daughter, Kristen; his sons, Matthew and David; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.