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Retiring faculty have fond memories, plans for the future
B Y L A U R E L W I L L O U G H B Y , A S S I S T A N T E D I T O R
If you attended PLU in the past 30 years or so, chances are you've taken a class from at least one of the faculty who retired this spring. But lest you think "retired" is synonymous with stopping or even slowing down, read on.
Professor, Mathematics Department
Students who made it to college still loving math were lucky to continue their learning under Michael Dollinger, for in him they found a kindred spirit.
"Over the years, there have been so many students who have had a real enthusiasm for learning mathematics," he said, adding he took particular joy in working with students who represented PLU in various intercollegiate mathematics competitions.
Dollinger has spent 17 years at PLU, punctuated by a term chairing PLU's Mathematics Department from 1992 to 1994 and the 1985-86 academic year in an exchange with Zhongshan (Sun Yat-Sen) University, Guangzhou, China.
While he has enjoyed the "wonderful collegi-ality" of PLU's math faculty, Dollinger said he regrets that the Mathematics and Computer Sciences departments were not included (due to finances) when Rieke Science Center was built. The departments' resulting physical and intellectual isolation kept both faculty and students from participating fully in the university community, he said.
So with full-time teaching behind him, what will Dollinger do?
"Actually, I've made no plans at all," he said. "I've been much too busy teaching students to give any serious attention to planning for the coming years."
Professor, Computer Science
"My fondest memories of teaching are seeing my students grow and develop," said Larry Edison, who spent his 16 years at PLU in both math and computer science, twice as department chair.
"It has been important to me to know my students personally, and that's why teaching at small liberal-arts schools has been my life's work," said the 34-year education veteran. "I hope I have contributed to my students' total personal development, not just their academic growth."
Not only a dedicated educator, Edison also is a fascinated observer of the evolution of computer science in general. As a graduate student at Stanford in the 1960s, the researchers he assisted would occasionally allow the use of the new electronic computer to run calculations, but always required that one of the "real" (human) computers carry out the equation on -- gasp! -- a calculator.
True retirement means about as little to Edison as it does to the others who left PLU this year. His "to do" list includes web page design and construction, calligraphy, community-service work, traveling, music, and learning Japanese and French so he will be better able to communicate with his grand-daughter and two Belgian grandsons.
Professor, Chemistry Department
You might call him the "boomerang." This is the third year in a row Giddings has "tried to retire" from PLU, but he keeps coming back. After leaving full-time teaching two years ago, he was asked twice to
return to help the Chemistry Department instruct new waves of students in organic chemistry.
At PLU since 1962, Giddings' professional activities apart from chemistry have included chairing the Integrated Studies Program in 1983-84 and being part of the exchange faculty in 1986 and 1992 for Chengdu University of Science and Tech-nology, Chengdu, China. In fact, his recent return from the 10-day trip to China with President Anderson marks his fourth visit to that country.
So will 1998 be the year he actually puts his beakers back on the shelf?
"Oh, you never know," said Giddings. But any future commitments would be hard-pressed to find a space in his busy non-academic schedule. Giddings is a member of the Pierce County Solid Waste Advisory Committee and three different Parkland associations; he also is a member of two church choirs and the PLU Choral Union.
Professor, Mathematics Department
Many people find job hunting a stressful task, but not John Herzog.
"I've never really had to look for a job - we've just sort of found each other," said Herzog, who taught at posts in Nebraska and Idaho before coming to PLU 31 years ago. He has chaired the Mathematics Department three times (1968-74, 1983-84 and 1991-92) and performed similar duties for the Division of Natural Sciences from 1975-81. He also served as dean of the division from 1984-90.
"I've been lucky to have worked with a lot of wonderful people," Herzog reflected. "And what a great bunch of students. I've enjoyed having an influence on their lives all these years." But his effect on his pupils went far beyond mathematics.
"One of the more enjoyable and satisfying things I've done at PLU is accompanying students on back-packing trips in New Zealand over the last five years," he continued.
Retirement for Herzog will mean more of the same. His wife is from Christchurch, New Zealand, and they plan to travel and hike -- or "tramp the tracks," as the Kiwis say -- in that area five months out of the year.
Professor, Religion Department
"Devil's advocate" might seem a strange label for a professor of religion, but even a few moments of conversation with Lyman Lundeen prove the designation to be apt.
"I've always tried to bring up the other side of an argument," stressed the nine-year PLU faculty veteran. And as much as students have gleaned from his instruction in Christian theology, it's clear he has learned from them as well: "I've taught a lot of fine young students who continue to inspire me by their character and commitment."
Lundeen's core courses at PLU have been Faith and Spirituality, and God in the Modern World, which, along with other courses, have given focus to his research and teaching. He especially celebrates several years of team teaching in the Integrated Studies program with Paul Webster (Languages).
Before coming to PLU, Lundeen was a chaired professor of systematic theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he taught for 21 years. The need to "do something different" drew him to PLU, he said.
"I had never been in this part of the country before, and I thought the university setting would be interesting," Lundeen said. He and his wife, who have four grown children, are raising their teenaged granddaughter in Parkland.
Associate Professor, Chemistry Department
"I've throroughly enjoyed working with students and shaking up their belief systems."
A comment from a retiring philosophy professor, perhaps? Guess again. The quote is from Burton Nesset, associate chemistry professor, and in the 31 years he has been at PLU, his teaching plate has been filled mainly by the basic, nuclear, nutritional and biochemistry branches of his field.
Still, this scientist believes in balance, so he also has taught Becoming Human, a Critical Conversations course that is part of the Freshman Experience program of study. His teaching expertise extends to human relations, communication skills and counseling. Likewise, his community involve-ment included membership on the board of Greater Lakes Mental Health Center, the Pierce County Board for Substance Abuse, and church councils.
So how does Nesset plan to unwind after more than three decades in academia? The same way he and his family have for the past 22 years: by touring passengers around the San Juan Islands in their mini cruise liner for one- and two-week vacations.
"We'll also visit people we haven't seen in a while," he added, "and I'll probably still teach Critical Conversations at J-Term."
Professor, Physical Education
It's not hard for Sara Officer to look back over her three decades at PLU and pick a favorite memory.
"I think I'm proudest of starting the women's athletic program here and keeping it going," Officer said, noting she was one of the first female coaches on staff at the university. "I'm also gratified at the excellence achieved by physical education teachers who learned part of their craft in my classes." Officer's pre-PLU career includes stints in Oregon, Sri Lanka (with the Peace Corps) and New Mexico.
As with many faculty and students, PLU's J-Term sessions have provided Officer a special opportunity. For nine years, she and her students have spent January in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood, refur-bishing homes and providing other social services. Mornings were spent in the hands-on work while afternoons went toward study in the classroom.
"I really believe in service; it's a call we all have," said Officer. "I've enjoyed the work very much, but there's a season to everything."
So as the leaves turn on Officer's academic career, new buds will be opening as she travels and volunteers with the Navajo people in Arizona. She also plans to continue working on the Hilltop and with Associated Ministries -- "wherever I see a need," she said.
Professor, School of Education
In his own eyes, Frank Olson's 27 years at PLU don't stack up in terms of accomplishments, and when asked to summarize his experience here, no particular events come to mind. He prefers to remember things this way:
"I've considered it a privilege to work with the students," he said. "They have been extraordinary."
Perhaps the best qualification for a teacher is that he or she loves the profession and can pass that zeal on to the students. This is especially important when educating future educators, something at which Olson excels.
A former junior high and high school math teacher, he has taught various PLU undergraduate courses in secondary instruction. And at the graduate level, Olson has gone a step further, with such courses as Metacognition, Classroom Interaction, and Research and Program Evaluation.
In his post-PLU life, Olson will continue his part-time involvement in the American College of Surgeons' international programs in trauma education. His association with the group has already put him in contact with 250,000 students and has taken him literally all over the globe. He also plans to work with a friend in some publishing efforts.
Professor, School of Education
After 15 years of teaching graduate and undergraduate classes in special education and early childhood education at PLU, and twice chairing the Special Education program, Helmi Owens has much to be proud of. When asked about her retirement from the university, she was philosophical.
"I've worked with a lot of programs on campus, and I've gotten a lot of enjoyment from them," Owens said. "Still, I think it's time."
The After-School Enrichment Program she created in 1983 at PLU's Family and Children's Center continues to this day. She also has assessed and prescribed education programs for children suffering the effects of maternal prenatal drug use. Leaving PLU doesn't mean cutting ties with her pet projects, though.
"I'll probably stay involved with the prenatal-drug-effects education," Owens said. She'll also continue volunteering with schools and teachers, and do some writing, both in her field and covering personal family history.
And here's one person who truly will sail off into the sunset -- thanks to her boat-owning sons, who have promised to continue to take Mom sailing.
Professor, Mathematics Department
Whoever created the stereotype of the ultrastructured mathematician -- with life planned out to the nth degree -- probably has never spoken with Gary Peterson.
Instead of a precise answer to "What are you going to do after retirement?", he came forth with, "I'm going to have to figure that out -- let's get through the semester first."
"The main thing I'll miss is the interaction with the students," Peterson emphasized.
This lifelong educator has plied his trade in such places as Belle Plaine, Iowa; Bellingham, Wash.; New Delhi, India; and at the University of Kansas. In three decades at PLU, Peterson has twice chaired the Mathematics Department, where his primary responsibilities have centered on teaching mathematics to prospective teachers.
His work apart from teaching includes pushing for the establishment of National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards.
Professor, School of Education
Described as "something of a perfectionist" and one who "admires excellence in others and expects it of himself," Rickabaugh is a psychologist and educator who "first and foremost openly embraces the Christian faith."
And he extends this belief into the classroom. For instance, in Education Psychology 261 (Human Relations Development), he helps students "ponder how human relations skills connect with Christian conviction" as they prepare for works of service.
With a disciplined lifestyle, he's been able to keep his insulin-dependent diabetes in check for more than five decades. This organized nature has, in turn, been fundamental to his success as an instructor.
"I believe good teaching derives from the identity and integrity of the teacher," said the 23-year PLU faculty member. Viewing education, teaching, learning and human relations development through the eyes of faith, he says, helps him balance high expectations and precise organization of course content with a deep respect and compassion for each of his students.
After leaving PLU, Rickabaugh plans to spend the next five or six months concentrating on maintaining his health. Then, he said, he'll pursue horticultural interests and explore new ways to put his faith into action.
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