An article in Sunday's TODAY section incorrectly reported...

Sunday Snapshots

March 10, 1996|By Stephanie Shapiro

An article in Sunday's TODAY section incorrectly reported when a scholarship created in the name of art historian Ruth Nagle Watkins was announced. The College of Notre Dame of Maryland announced the scholarship March 3.

The Sun regrets the error.

Bringing a world of art to students; Ruth Nagle Watkins: Former diplomat's wife and art-history instructor at Notre Dame studied her subject firsthand in many of the world's capitals.

Ruth Nagle Watkins began her teaching career in 1938 as an art-history instructor at a tiny California college. She completed her teaching career in 1994 after 35 years as an art-history instructor at the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

But it is what she accomplished in the intervening years that made all the difference in the world.

As the wife of a British diplomat, Mrs. Watkins has lived in Beijing, London, Tehran, Beirut, Copenhagen, Havana, Belgrade and Baltimore. Everywhere she went, Mrs. Watkins studied art and architecture with a passion. When she prefaced her Notre Dame lectures with, "I will speak of nothing that I have not seen or touched," students knew it was the truth.

Today, Notre Dame announces an art scholarship in her name.

Ask Mrs. Watkins about her life, and she'll give you a year-by-year chronology. She had already traveled solo to Europe by the time she graduated from the University of California Los Angeles in 1937.

On a summer break from her job as chairman of Pasadena College's art department, she went to China. On the train from Shanghai to Beijing, the independent young woman met a British diplomat who invited her to a party at the British Embassy. "The other guests were all men. It was simply delightful," she says as if the party took place last night.

There, she met her future husband, E. Leslie Watkins. They were wed in the embassy, and their international adventures began.

In London during World War II, they were blitzed and bombed. As an American Red Cross employee, Mrs. Watkins escorted 18 orphans to the United States.

After the war, they left London. "We went by sea to Egypt. It was pure deluxe," Mrs. Watkins remembers. Then, "by boat and motor car and by air," they arrived in Tehran, in what was then Persia.

As she globe-trotted, Mrs. Watkins studied medieval art in Denmark, Spanish churches in Cuba, Serbian frescoes in Yugoslavia.

The late Mr. Watkins' work eventually took him to the United States, where he divided his time between Washington and the British Consulate in Baltimore. The Watkinses moved into a home on North Charles Street, and she began to teach, first at Loyola College, then at Notre Dame.

A native of Beverly Hills, Mrs. Watkins refuses to think in a sedentary way. "Retirement is not for me," she says. "There's too much to do in the world."

It's a wonderful passion, says Eric Stahl, a musician for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Yes, classical music is indeed a passion for the bass player, but that's not his only one. The passion he is referring to this time is his love for cars. Not all cars. Just Volkswagens.

Mr. Stahl, 37, has 10 of them. He keeps most of them in a chicken shed in northern Baltimore County, where they wait to be lovingly restored. Three of them are currently registered.

"I got into it because my dad had a '58 bug," he says. "My family always had VWs."

The Minnesota native got his first Volkswagen in 1979. "It was a white '69 bug," he says. He used that car until 1992. "I reluctantly gave it up, took it off the road, because of the rust problem," he says. Then he replaced it with a '64 VW bus.

Mr. Stahl became interested in working on that first VW because he just didn't trust anyone else to do it.

"I wanted to learn how to work on them myself," he says. That first one led to his buying another and another. "Some, I feel as if I saved from the junkyard," he says.

Now there are so many he has neither the time nor the money to give them all the care and attention they deserve.

"I am considering looking for good homes for them," he says. Of course, he won't be giving up all of them.

L He realizes the hobby provides a great balance in his life.

"Being an artist, you can't really touch the music. You can feel it," he says. "I like working on cars because you can get in and roll your sleeves up. It's a good contrast for me."

Mr. Stahl has become somewhat of an expert on Volkswagen history and believes broader lessons can be learned.

"The people who worked on them felt like the VW made a real statement -- the quality that they put into the car. I get sentimental about it. It is inspirational."

Sandra Crockett

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