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Newly retired
Contemporary photos by Emma Dodge Hanson '93; archival photos by Bob Mayette

In thirty-six years at Skidmore, Tadahisa Kuroda—professor of American and European history—has been recognized as Edwin Moseley Faculty Research Lecturer, David Porter Professor, and winner of the Ralph Ciancio Award for Teaching Excellence. He also served as chair of the history department and associate dean of the faculty. In the late 1990s, he introduced in his classes the case-study method of teaching, which he believes “promotes student-initiated learning.”

Now on the verge of retirement, Kuroda says what’s been most remarkable about teaching at Skidmore is that on any given day, in any class, his students inevitably “say, write, or do something unexpected and interesting.” The possibility of more surprises has made him “always happy to come to class,” he notes.

Outside the classroom, some memorable moments for Kuroda included late-night faculty meetings to discuss Vietnam War protests; interviewing architects Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry, and Antoine Predock in their studios before the design and construction of the Tang Museum; writing a book on the Twelfth Amendment; and serving on the search committee that brought in Skidmore’s fifth president, David Porter.

When he leaves Skidmore he’ll miss its people most, Kuroda says—but also “the spirit of this place.” He plans to move, with his wife, to northern Virginia, where their daughter and her family (including three-year-old Tad) live. He hopes to continue work as a historian and also “spend more time gardening and with my Martin guitar… And maybe there will be a surprise or two in this next phase of life.”

There’s no shortage of confidence in Don McCormack’s tone when he claims he has the best job in the world. Even so, the dean of special programs has decided to retire after thirty-five years at Skidmore. His time on campus—twenty years in his current position, eight years as director of University Without Walls (including its Inmate Higher Education Program), and a total of twenty-four years teaching—has been “one continuous highlight,” he says.

In the government department, McCormack taught courses on civil rights, political theory, American government, and contemporary black politics. As dean of special programs, he’s overseen the college’s array of summer offerings—including the Jazz Institute, Writers Institute, Summer SIX studio-art program, dance residencies by prominent companies, and academic programs for precollegiate youth—as well as UWW and Skidmore’s master’s program.

“I’ve been able to make friends with everybody from inmates at a maximum-security prison to college trustees,” not to mention performing artists like Trisha Brown and Milt Hinton. “It’s been an enormous privilege,” he says. Swiveling around in his office chair, McCormack glances at the many memories—in photos and poster format—on his walls. “See that picture of Bobby Scott?” (Scott co-wrote, among other things, the 1969 Hollies hit “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”) “When he did the sound check for that concert, it was just me in JKB Theater. It was like a solo concert for me alone.” He pauses. “But I can think of a thousand things. When you have a chance to develop programs, the first time you see something happen—like the master’s students walking across the stage to get their diplomas at SPAC, or the Boys Choir of Harlem performing the gum-boot dance—it’s very exciting.”

Those who work with McCormack are equally impressed. He’s “friendly, sweet-spirited, and unfailingly enthusiastic,” proclaims Writers Institute director Bob Boyers—but at the same time will “ask tough questions” when necessary. Summer SIX director Regis Brodie appreciates the “freedom and flexibility” McCormack afforded him and says he created “an atmosphere of trust and, most assuredly, high expectations.”

McCormack and wife Judy (who retired last year as longtime director of Skidmore’s counseling center) live in town, in the middle of the old campus (their place “was like a flop-house for students,” McCormack says fondly). They love the college (where a daughter, two nieces, a nephew, and a cousin all studied) and don’t intend to move away. In retirement, “I’m planning to come back for the jazz and dance concerts—all that stuff,” McCormack says. “I’ve toyed with putting together a course on the First Amendment, but I think I’ll hold off on that for a while and just spend a lot of time hangin’.”

Elaine Rubenstein, also retiring this spring, came to Skidmore in 1977. She’s taught cell and molecular biology, human and developmental biology, immunobiology, and microbiology. The recipient of two grants from the National Science Foundation (and co-author on a third), she also served as department chair and once said, “I’ve never seen or heard of a faculty more interested in the development and growth of undergraduate students or so concerned about helping them do the best they can.”

Likewise, Rubenstein gives the students themselves high marks. “I enjoy seeing them become genuinely engaged in and challenged by what they are learning—and, as a result, accomplish more than they expected.” Her favorite experience is “working with research students in the lab,” she says. “The kind of individualized teaching and learning that occurs as the students’ research projects take shape gives them a great opportunity for real growth and achievement, and it has given me the best opportunity to know students and learn from them.” She keeps in touch with many alumni and is impressed by their “incredibly varied accomplishments”—and always happy to hear that “they continue to value their Skidmore education.

Rubenstein will be moving to Buffalo, N.Y. While she’ll miss Saratoga, her colleagues, and students, she’s unashamedly looking forward to “living in the same city as my husband (his job is there), year-round!” —MTS