I want to thank the chapter for honoring me, and thanks to Dick for his kind words. Meeting Dick at a conference in 1974 led to a long association and friendship. I’ve admired his accomplishments as a scholar, teacher, administrator, and college citizen.
Jim Taggart and I arrived in 1971, part of a very small cohort. I suppose some of you weren’t yet born. It’s been a privilege to be a colleague of Jim’s ever since, and to share our departure. 1971 wasn’t a great year to be job hunting – especially if you had a low draft lottery number. Jim may have experienced some of the same strange looks from our colleagues at the time. F&M had just ended the appointments of several untenured faculty members because of budget constraints. I don’t think that bit about job security was mentioned in my interview. So the mood of the faculty was certainly grim, and colleagues wondered what on earth had prompted us to join the college. There had been a mysterious conference in the Poconos about the future of the college. Not too long before, faculty concerns had led to the resignation of a president who just a month before had been appointed without consultation.
At the time, the AAUP chapter was extremely active and engaged in the life of the college. Monthly AAUP meetings brought out scores of members, for the substance of the discussions as well as for the beer. The chapter had committees on the college budget, on admissions, on the Economic Status of the faculty, and on Faculty Welfare; these groups carefully studied college activities. The chapter played a key role in helping get the college back on track, and in assuring the faculty’s place in college governance. In 1977 the national AAUP recognized the chapter with the Beatrice Konheim award for our outstanding achievements in advancing academic freedom and the rights and opportunities of all faculty members.
The chapter was part of a culture that created a strong sense of unity among the faculty and staff of the college. It was a privilege for me to be elected a chapter officer, including president. With the recent rejuvenation of the AAUP chapter, I hope that that sense of community and shared purpose will be strengthened.
Here’s one story of my first days in the biology department. Fackenthal labs had just been renovated, and the department was justifiably proud of its new and greatly expanded facilities. For the first time each faculty member had a research lab – that was certainly something that attracted me to the college. Within a few days of arriving in July, I experienced the true collegiality of the department. After a torrential thunderstorm, the basement flooded – architects seem to have trouble dealing with rain. So we spent hours mopping floors and salvaging equipment. That’s what I told my friends and family when they asked about my new job.
Another experience I recall occurred in the faculty dining room. Yes, there was one – I’ll share the secret of its location if you ask. Nice carpet, friendly staff, and tablecloths as I recall. I bravely sat down with some senior colleagues, who proceeded to interrogate me. One colleague reacted with dismay at some point – I wondered what faux pas I had committed. He lamented that I was too young to be a faculty member – I was the first faculty member he knew who had been born after FDR died – though truth be told it was just the next day. For those of you who are quick with trivial recall, that was 67 years ago today.
F&M today is a very different college – the faculty is far larger and much more engaged in scholarship and innovative teaching. Many majors have been added. Off campus study, service learning, junior faculty leaves, and Hackman scholars are just a few of the things that have become part of the fabric of the college. In 1971 there was a one-person music department, and Bruce Gustafson became part of the great enhancement of that program. I’m glad to have been involved in the planning for the house system, so that David Stameshkin could become one of the founding prefects.
I’d like to mention my community activities. For 8 years I served on the Lancaster School Board, including 3 years as president. While the position brought its share of stress, my horizons were broadened in several ways. What we as college teachers are able to do is directly related to what the K-12 schools can do. Students do not undergo a magical transformation between high school graduation and their arrival here. As society continues to underfund the schools and demean teachers, college professors must show active support. As a school board member, I observed the innovative and effective ways in which high school teachers engage their students – who become our students. I’ve been involved in many discussions with F&M colleagues about teaching, and it seems there is finally progress toward a faculty development center. I also served on and chaired my national professional society’s Education Committee. From all of these activities I learned many ways to increase our students’ active engagement in learning – less “the sage on the stage” and more “the guide on the side”.
As academics we value reasoned discourse and data-driven conclusions. It’s quite an eye-opener as a school board member to face an auditorium full of citizens with a different mindset and intense emotions. But I acquired important skills from those meetings.
More recently I’ve served on the Lancaster Shade Tree Commission – that’s certainly closer to my professional interests. And trees don’t write nasty letters to the editor about you. But this job requires public relations skills. State and federal funding for anything related to the environment is under attack. Ignoring the environment and ignoring public education will have dire long term consequences, but our society seems unable to focus on anything beyond the next quarter.
We have a responsibility to the local and global communities, and I encourage you to find whatever ways you can to contribute.
Over the years I’ve had the great opportunity to work with and learn from many of you – as research collaborators, in team-taught courses, on committees, and in casual conversations. Those things kept me energized for 41 years and made this much more than just a job. I will remember each of you and the efforts you make to improve the college and the broader community – from Lancaster to the world.