History of the OLRC
The unit that was to become the Open Language Resource Center was founded in 1965 as the KU Language Laboratories. It was established by Ermal Garinger, its first Director, in the Blake Hall annex, where it remained throughout the demolition of old Blake Hall and the construction of the current building. In 1973, the KU Language Laboratories moved into a custom-built, state-of-the-art facility in the newly constructed Wescoe Hall. The new facility featured closed-circuit television and centralized audio consoles that allowed the Laboratories to send out audio and video throughout the fourth floor of the building. With the rise of VHS and the Walkman in the early 1980s, the demand for audio/video resources quickly spread from the language departments to other departments within Humanities division of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. That expanded mission was recognized formally in 1987, when the unit was renamed the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center (EGARC) on the occasion of the retirement of the unit's director.
As the unit moved into the 21st century, EGARC continued evolving to meet the needs of faculty and students at KU. As the rise of mobile devices and wireless connectivity made it possible for patrons to access materials online, EGARC transitioned from distributing commercial materials to working with faculty to create materials of their own. That work led to the support of grant projects with the Project on the History of Black Writing, the Department of African and African-American Studies and the Kansas African Studies Center. It also led to the creation of free online textbooks with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, as well as smaller projects in a variety of other langauges. This interest in Open Educational Resources (OER) - broadly defined as learning materials that are released under a license that permits no-cost access, adaptation and redistribution by others with limited restrictions - quickly became a defining element of the unit's work, culminating in the award of a Language Resource Center grant from the U.S. Department of Education for 2018-22. That grant, which created the Open Language Resource Center, funded the creation of materials for Chinese, French, German, Kiswahili, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian. It also established KU as a national leader in the creation and promotion of OER and established relationships with regional groups to establish events like the annual World Languages Fair. In recognition of that new external mission, EGARC officially became the Open Language Resource Center in the Spring of 2023.
Who was Ermal Garinger?
Ermal Garinger was the Director of the University of Kansas Language Laboratories from 1965 until his retirement in 1987, when the unit was renamed the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center in his honor. Garinger received his B.S. in Education from Marion College in his hometown of Marion, Indiana in 1949. He received his Masters in Education from Ball State Teachers College in 1952. He supplemented the latter degree with subsequent coursework at Louisiana State University, the University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras) and the University of Kansas. Garinger's career was one singularly focused on expanding the study of foreign languages in the state of Kansas.
He began the 1950's with a joint appointment as librarian and instructor of Spanish at Miltonvale College in Miltonvale, Kansas. This was followed by jobs in Kansas high schools in Glasco, Longford, and Sabetha. He began the 1960's as the head of the Foreign Languages Department at Campus High School in Wichita, and then moved on to a position teaching Spanish at Marion College, back in Indiana. He maintained close ties to Kansas during this time, however, by working as a Foreign Language Consultant for the Kansas Department of Education. In 1963 he returned to Kansas as an instructor of Spanish at the University of Wichita, only to take a job as Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Wyoming the following year.
In 1965, Garinger was hired as Director of the Language Laboratories at the University of Kansas and remained in this position until his retirement. In his twenty-two years as director, Garinger saw the lab from its beginnings in a temporary building behind Blake Hall through its move to its current location in Wescoe Hall. He assisted in the installation of much of the equipment used in Wescoe through the 1980's and 1990's, including the Sony 9000 language lab, which remained in 4068 Wescoe until 2005. Although he had built an impressive library of materials on reel-to-reel tapes, Garinger was among the first to recognize the expanded possibilities of cassette tapes as a means of individualized and at-home study.
While at KU, Garinger continued to serve the wider public by directing summer Spanish camps for high school students and teaching Spanish in adult education courses. He was a member of the Kansas Modern Foreign Language Advisory Panel for most of the 1960's and 1970's and editor of the Kansas Modern Language Bulletin from 1961-63 and 1970-78. Throughout his career he remained an active member of the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), attending their yearly national conferences. His tireless dedication to language study continued well into his retirement, most notably in an adult education program for Spanish that he ran for his church. Ermal Garinger passed away on November 19, 2010 at the age of 88.
Who was Frank Bangs?
Frank Bangs graduated from KU in 1940 with a degree in Business Administration. During World War II, he served as a Naval officer in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, becoming a Navy pilot in 1943. Upon his return to Kansas after the war, he founded Frank Bangs Audio-Video, Inc. and became a pioneer in the use of audiovisual equipment as an educational tool. His company was actively involved in installing language laboratories in high schools and universities throughout Kansas, including those installed at the University of Kansas. In addition to his work establishing his own company, Bangs served terms as both president and chairman of the National Audio Visual Association.
Upon Bangs' death in May of 1998, Charles E. and Charlotte Curry developed a substantial gift to establish the Frank Bangs Memorial Classroom Fund. Charles E. Curry graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Kansas in 1940. While at KU, he and Frank Bangs were roommates and members of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. They remained life-long friends. After serving as a lieutenant in the Navy from 1942 to 1945, Curry spent most of his career in banking. Among other positions, he was a member of the Missouri Commission for Commerce and Industry, served for eight years as the presiding judge of the county court in Jackson County, Mo. and was president of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. He also served as the treasurer of the Democratic National Committee in the 1980s. Mr. Curry passed away in December of 2010 at the age of 92.
The Frank Bangs Memorial Computer Classroom was dedicated in the Fall of 2000. Among the many friends and family at the ceremony were Margaret Wilson Bangs, wife of Frank Bangs and also a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of KU with bachelor's and master's degrees in English. Since its dedication, the classroom has been a vital resource for classes throughout the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In the summer of 2014, the Bangs Classroom underwent a major renovation that doubled its size and transformed into an Active Learning Classroom.