J. Richard Guthrie believed strongly in the undergraduate study of German language, literature, and culture. As part of his estate, he endowed a scholarship fund to assist undergraduates to carry out semester or summer research in German Studies. Because of this generous endowment from his estate, the German Studies Section at W&M is able to award a limited number of scholarships to qualified undergraduates in German Studies.
A native of Hilton Village who attended Hilton Elementary, J. Richard Guthrie was graduated from Warwick High School in 1958 where he was elected the “Wittiest” in the class, a personality trait which stood him in good stead throughout his life. He held a B.A. Degree in French and German from William and Mary, an M.A. from Middlebury College Graduate School of French at the Sorbonne in Paris. There, as the elected Student Body President, he was presented the symbolic key to the city by the then mayor of Paris, later to become the president of the French Republic, Francois Mitterand.
Later, he continued on with his education earning the Ph.D. in Romance Languages with an extensive German minor, granted by special permission of the Graduate Committee from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was the recipient of numerous grants for study at the Universities of Munich, Cologne and the Free University of Berlin in Germany. He was honored to have been chosen as one of 15 Americans to participate in a conference in West Berlin sponsored by the West German government in 1981 and a special grant for 12 university teachers nation-wide to attend a conference on the “New Germany” in Berlin in 1991, one year after reunification.
He was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus from Christopher Newport upon his retirement in May of 2002 after 35 years where he was responsible for the construction, inauguration and implementation of the German major and minor programs from their beginnings until his retirement. He served three elected three-year terms as Chairman of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures. He traveled extensively throughout all of Europe: northern, central and southern, and the Mid-East, including Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Greece.
Professor Guthrie was passionate about German Studies, and he channeled that passion into creating opportunities for W&M undergrads to follow their passion. Thanks to his generous gift, German Studies undergraduates at W&M will be able to carry out research in German Studies in the United States or abroad for years to come. Recent recipients of Guthrie scholarship funds have included Kai Simenson, Anna Kim, Elaine Vega, Judson Peverall and Sierra Barnes.