Atop an old, Italianate-style hotel that overlooks Lafayette Park and the White House with the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial in the distance, the five “legends” of Franklin & Marshall College’s Department of Government were feted.
The newly retired faculty – Professors Robert Friedrich P’11, Robert Gray, Joseph Karlesky P’01, P’04, Stanley Michalak P’89 and Grier Stephenson – arrived March 16 at the historic Hay-Adams Hotel in the nation’s capital to be honored for their years of distinguished scholarship and teaching.
“Like all associated with F&M, they inherited a tradition of excellence when they joined the College,” F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield said. “They drew upon that tradition … and now pass it forward to grateful new generations of scholars and students.”
More than 200 alumni, some traveling from distant states, were there to thank the retirees for their teaching inspirations that helped to mold them into the professionals they had become.
“But for them, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did in my career,” said Robert Langer ’70, an attorney who drove down from Connecticut where he once worked for the state as a prosecutor and is now in private practice and teaches at the University of Connecticut.
In her opening remarks, Susan Dicklitch-Nelson, professor of government and department chair, said the retirees, who began their careers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, “helped to build and shape the curriculum of the department into what it is today.”
“We owe these legends of the Department of Government a debt of gratitude for their foresight and initiative,” she added.
The event was, in one symbolic sense, a moment in which the emeriti pass the torch to the next generation of government faculty, several of whom were on hand to honor the five men.
“I think what they did was set a great example of what it means to be a faculty member,” said Stephen Medvic, the Honorable & Mrs. John C. Kunkel Professor of Government, who joined the faculty in 2002. “I think of them as really the model of what a liberal arts professor should be.”
Assistant Professor of Government Nina Kollars, who arrived at F&M a few years ago to replace the retired Gray, said the emeriti “broke the path” in teaching and scholarship.
“In their time, they were the innovators, the leaders and the visionaries,” Kollars said. “The department has been great at allowing me the freedom to put my own mark on the department.”
The faculty who now hold the torch have some “big shoes to fill,” said Dicklitch-Nelson. “I’ve been here 20 years in July and they’re still big shoes to fill,” she said.
According to alumni Kirsten Lavery ’09, a human-rights lawyer for the Washington Public International Law and Policy Group, a global pro bono firm, Dicklitch-Nelson long ago managed to fit into those shoes, particularly with her course, Human Rights/Human Wrongs.
“Everyone in the government department was amazing,” Lavery said. “Her class informed my career.”