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Spring 2002

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Eight retire from faculty

     Eight longtime Skidmore professors will step away from their chalkboards and lecterns this spring to settle into emeritus status.

David Eyman
David Eyman
     David Eyman’s career as an academic librarian included almost twenty years at Skidmore. With four degrees—a B.A. and M.A. in history from Ohio University and an M.L.S. and Ph.D. in library administration from the University of Michigan—Eyman came to Saratoga Springs in 1984 to head the Lucy Scribner Library.

     In the mid-1990s he served as project coordinator for the library’s expansion and renovation—a role he remembers fondly. “Watching the library be torn apart, then rebuilt, was endlessly fascinating to me,” he says. “It was a fine way to cap a quarter century of work in academic libraries.” Other highlights of Eyman’s career at Skidmore included “the startup of the college’s first computerized library catalog, and the beginning of access to online reference services.”

     As a professor of liberal studies and lecturer in history, Eyman taught a variety of courses, including “Anglo/ American Cooperation in World War II,” “Hollywood Goes to War: History vs. Art in the WW II Combat Film,” and “WW II in the Pacific.” Reflecting on what he’ll miss most about Skidmore, Eyman says, “Teaching has placed me in closer contact with many fine students.”

     Does it come as any surprise that Eyman’s post-Skidmore plans include …reading? Apparently he’s been stockpiling books, intentionally setting them aside for retirement. Besides that, he says, “I’m going to put a lot more effort into practicing the piano. And, if I can convince my wife that it’s a good idea, I’d like to hike extensively in Europe.”

Lynne Gelber
Alan Wheelock, John Thomas, Lynne Gelber, Jim Kiehl
     A French professor (and mother of Mathew ’85), Lynne Gelber chaired Skidmore’s department of foreign languages and literatures several times, including a stint from 1979 to 1986. She came to Skidmore in 1966 with A.B. and M.A. degrees in French from Bryn Mawr; she later earned a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado.

     Gelber’s focus has been twentieth-century French literature—“especially,” she says, “the interconnection between literature and the arts.” She’s also taught courses on conversational French and French culture.

     Among Gelber’s more notable accomplishments—and her great passion during her tenure at Skidmore—was coordinating the college’s first study-abroad program. The original offerings—a semester in Paris or Barcelona—were designed to provide students of any major the opportunity “to understand their field in the context of a foreign culture.” Gelber is proud to say that Skidmore’s program—which advocates engaging students intimately, on a variety of levels, in their surroundings abroad—is still considered among the best foreign exchange programs.

     Gelber also served on “most major committees” at Skidmore, including the Committee on Educational Policy and Planning at the time the college was considering going coed. She has fond memories of her involvement in faculty governance as well as other experiences ranging from a winter-term course, “Experiments in French Theater”—which she co-taught with theater professor Alan Brody—to chairing summer study groups. She says she enjoyed a close relationship with an administration that responded to faculty concerns. The result of such direct conversations, she says, has been “a very strong faculty.”

     Retirement, for Gelber, will mean more opportunities for traveling, conducting her own research, and being involved in community activities. Gelber has served as a board member of the Saratoga Chamber Players (currently as chair), Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, and Domestic Violence Services of Saratoga County. “Being idle is not in my nature,” she maintains.

Wilma Hall
Wilma Hall
     After twenty-seven years at Skidmore, Visiting Associate Professor of American Studies Wilma Hall says unequivocally that she’ll remember Skidmore “for the richness of its opportunities for shared ventures in learning.”

     The recipient of a B.A. from Bucknell, an M.A. from Columbia, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, Hall came to Skidmore in 1975. Since then, “she has been consistent and unwavering in her devotion to her students, her colleagues, and the educational mission of the college,” comments Gregory Pfitzer, associate professor of American studies.

     Whether leading classes in the English department (including writing, romanticism, and fiction), for the Liberal Studies program (“Women, Creativity, and the Arts” and “The Human Other”), or in American studies (“American Autobiography,” “Ethnicity and Immigration,” and “The West”), Hall has simultaneously challenged and nurtured her students—“a combination,” Pfitzer says, “that has earned her the lifelong respect and friendship of graduates.” And the admiration is mutual. “I am grateful to my students and colleagues,” Hall says, “for the measure of strength and understanding I have gained from our shared explorations throughout the years.”

     Teaming up with Carolyn Anderson of the theater department, Hall has produced plays on topics ranging from the AIDS epidemic to the effects of toxic waste. Their works have been performed locally and in theaters nationwide. They also produced a film script for the National Park Service called “The Battles of Saratoga; Turning Points of the American Revolution.” Hall’s most recent scholarly work, Across High Seas: WW II Letters of Kathryn and Richard Leach, is a volume of edited letters between a soldier in the Pacific and his wife. Besides her work as a scholar and teacher, Hall has been active on multiple campus committees.

     In retirement, Hall expects to spend more time in Tucson, Ariz., where she’s involved with “issues concerning the environment and Native American people. This fragile ecology gives questions of land rights and water use a special urgency.” She also plans to play with her grandchildren and finish up some scholarly projects.

James Kiehl
     Jim Kiehl will tell you his life “is blessed by acquaintance and friendship with many who have studied and worked at the college.” He will also say, “Identity as a member of the Skidmore faculty is my proudest personal claim.” An associate professor in the English department, Kiehl came to Skidmore in 1969, having received a B.A. from Washington and Jefferson College and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University.

     Among Kiehl’s specialties are the eighteenth- and early twentieth-century British novel; Milton (Paradise Lost, in particular); modern popular literature of natural science; and eighteenth-century British verse (especially Pope).

     He was also one of the first at Skidmore to teach filmmaking, and in the 1970s he led film appreciation courses and brought classic movies to the college for public showings. Kiehl found film an indisputably successful way to reach his students. Nearly thirty years ago he explained, “Students examining films must respond with more than just one sense. Students of literature, especially, are gratified by the release from such exclusive attention to written words.… Classroom discussions are typically vigorous, self-sustaining, and fundamentally intelligent.” Observing his film students’ active participation in class inspired Kiehl to apply his “novel teaching practices” to his more traditional literature courses and further experiment with assignments and classroom exercises.

     In recent years Kiehl has paid particular attention to actively engaging his students by assigning them frequent writing exercises. This, he says, helped “sustain my own interest and excitement” about teaching the same course semester after semester. He adds, “My fifteen-year participation as an instructor in Liberal Studies has greatly rewarded me. Shared study and teaching with colleagues from a wide range of disciplines have widened my personal interests and knowledge.”

     When Kiehl retires from active teaching, he says he’ll least miss “weary-eyed late nights and early mornings of coffee-stupor” while marking student papers. Retirement, he imagines, will give him more time “to pursue fond avocations such as homemade plywood art, household maintenance, and seashore and mountaintop visits.”

Patricia-Ann Lee

Patricia-Ann Lee
     Pat Lee, a mainstay in Skidmore’s department of history, earned degrees from Kean College (B.S.) and Columbia University (M.A. and Ph.D.), before joining the Skidmore faculty in 1967. While her classroom topics have included Tudor and Stuart England, Whigs and Tories, and the religious, political, and economic revolutions in Britain’s history, Lee’s research interests have ranged from the role of film in teaching history to “Women Petitioners to the Long Parliament.”

     The recipient of numerous faculty research grants, Lee has published articles in The Historian and the American Journal of Legal History. One of her most recent publications is a chapter on Lucy Scribner for Make No Small Plans: A History of Skidmore College (2000). Lee is also at work researching “Family, Friendship and Politics: Lucy Percy, Countess of Carlisle, and Her World, 1599–1660”; and “Women to Women: 17th-Century Advice Books.”

     Lee, who served several stints as chair of the history department, established the Lee Prize for outstanding student work in honor of her parents and founded Skidmore’s History and American Studies Lab, which serves as the department’s research library. The lab, she attests, “has made document-based teaching and student research a reality.”

     Lee draws praise from her colleagues, including Porter Professor Tadahisa Kuroda, who says Lee “has enormous energy and enthusiasm for English history and her students, and she keeps adding new dimensions to her teaching, such as incorporating films and videos, case studies, and simulations.”

     In retirement, Lee will do her usual: “read and write, paint and garden, and travel.” But she will miss the classroom. “The pleasure of teaching,” she asserts, “is in the students, who never fail to revive—and extend—one’s interest in a subject. If I had not had such wonderful students, I would never have continued in teaching and would probably be a corporate lawyer someplace.”

     Kuroda, for one, is glad Lee came to Saratoga. He says, “The love she brings to history, the garden, her travels abroad, her students, and her friendships—that is what we will miss when she retires.”

John Thomas
     Geology professor John Thomas loves teaching. And he doesn’t mince words when he considers the pros and cons of leaving Skidmore. “I will miss the students the most. They are wonderful, and many are my best friends,” he says. “What will I miss least? All of the non-teaching crap!”

     Thomas, who has a B.A. from Williams, an M.A. from Northwestern, and a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, arrived at Skidmore in 1968. His teaching specialties have included physical geology, structural geology, mineralogy, optical mineralogy, igneous and metamorphic petrology, regional geology of North America, and field studies in environmental science. Over the years Thomas has delivered a multitude of papers, published articles in professional and research journals, and been active in the American Association of University Professors, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geological Institute. His recent research has included the geology of the Adirondack Mountains, radon and its distribution, and the physical environment and water quality of lakes.

     Although Skidmore has kept him busy “twelve months of the year, being the best possible teacher and leading the best possible courses that I can,” Thomas has always found time to delve into community activities ranging from the Adirondack Girl Scout Council to the Saratoga Figure Skating Club, and has served as a consultant to various departments and organizations in the City of Saratoga Springs.

     Thomas acknowledges that retirement will afford a degree of freedom he’s looking forward to. His plans include developing a variety of Web pages and pursuing research opportunities with the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA. And he and his wife, Barbara, will travel and camp as much as possible. “The Northeast during color season, the U.S.-Mexico border, the Rocky Mountains, Alaska, and all those special opportunities to travel throughout the world are calling to us,” Thomas says. “Then there is my bicycle. I expect that it and I will spend a lot more time together.”

Alan Wheelock
     According to English department chair Terence Diggory, Alan Wheelock has an “infectious desire to imagine a world as fully as possible” —something, Diggory adds, that “takes a lot of hard work.” A visiting associate professor of English, Wheelock earned degrees from Queens College (A.B.), Hunter College (A.M.), and SUNY-Albany (Ph.D.). His specialties include American literature, film, and science fiction. He devised and taught the Liberal Studies courses “Radical Visions and American Dreams: The 1930s” and “The Aesthetics of Science Fiction.”

     A man of many interests, Wheelock has given lectures on topics as varied as world’s fairs in the Great Depression, hang-gliding on Mount Greylock, and witchcraft in literature. He has also served as a consultant and collaborator on a number of film-related projects, including Divided Highways, the book and PBS documentary on the U.S. highway system written by Thomas Lewis, Skidmore’s Quadracci Professor of Social Responsibility.

     While at Skidmore Wheelock directed the Educational Leadership Corps, a mentoring program launched by the Hudson Mohawk Association of Colleges and Universities and designed to encourage students from culturally diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in higher education.

     During 1993–94, while teaching at Qufu Teachers University in Shandong Province, China, Wheelock kept in touch regularly with Skidmore through the student newspaper, submitting “Letters from China”—a series of colorful anecdotes and observations. Upon his return to the United States, Wheelock (who was named Model Foreign Teacher of the Year by Shandong provincial authorities) presented to a variety of audiences a talk and slide show based on his experiences in China.

     In summing up Wheelock’s contributions to Skidmore, colleague Diggory says, “He has worked tirelessly inside and outside the classroom to bring the English department closer to being the kind of intellectual community we all would like to imagine.”

Stuart Witt
     “The term ‘learned’ has gone out of fashion in the academy,” says Ronald Seyb, chair of Skidmore’s government department. “But I can think of no adjective that better characterizes Stuart Witt.”

     Witt, associate professor of government, earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a master’s and doctorate from Syracuse University; he joined the Skidmore faculty in 1966. He has published often on state and local politics and has a history of activism in Saratoga Springs.

     Witt’s interests, Seyb observes, “have ranged far outside the field of political science, to include ethnography, art, literature, Jungian psychology, the history and culture of Latin America, and the philosophical thought of the Arab world. He has read widely in and written extensively on all of these topics, compiling in the process a corpus of knowledge that has combined with his reflexive generosity to make him an extraordinary resource for both his students and his colleagues.”

     Those who have worked with Witt, Seyb says, “can readily cite works he has authored that influenced their thinking, conversations with him that afforded them insights into an abstruse topic, or canvasses of his voluminous files that elicited critical pieces of information. During a time when too many colleges and universities treat any deviation from specialized study as misguided dilettantism, his career has been testament to the value of the broad training, intellectual fecundity, and invigorating collegiality that only small liberal arts colleges can offer.” —MTS


© 2002 Skidmore College