Approximately 120 guests gathered at the Barker Center Saturday to celebrate the retirement of English and African and African American Studies Professor Werner Sollors, in an event hosted by the Department of English.

“Keywords in American Literary Studies: A Conference for Werner Sollors,” began at 9 a.m., featured four panel discussions and was followed by an evening reception.

“I feel like I owe my entire life to him,” said Brian Hochman, English professor at Georgetown University. “He’s an extraordinary mentor, teacher and scholar.” Coming to this event was “like a family reunion,” he added. Hochman also spoke as a panelist.

Like Hochman, many panelists were former students of Sollors, and traveled from across the country and even overseas to make it. They not only shared academic papers, but also personal moments, reflections and what they learned from Sollors as a teacher.

“All of them showed a lot of appreciation for Werner as their friend and teacher,” said Joseph Harris, current emeritus, former Harvard English professor and longtime friend of Professor Sollors.

Professor Sollors holds a Ph.D. from the Free University of Berlin, where he graduated in 1975. He has been a member of the faculty of Harvard since 1983. His latest book, “The Temptation of Despair,” explores post-WWII German society.

Jessica Dorman, a former student of Sollors and 1996 Harvard graduate traveled from New Orleans for the event. She enjoyed the chance to reconnect with former classmates and professors. “I think this brings to life what scholarship is at its best,” she said.