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Professor Charles Bergman’s PLU ‘Swan Song’ is a Talk About Penguins

Professor Charles Bergman’s PLU ‘Swan Song’ is a Talk About Penguins

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Professor Charles Bergman holds a penguin on South Africa's Robben Island, where he spent two weeks researching penguins for a Smithsonian article. (Photo courtesy of Charles Bergman)

Image: Professor Charles Bergman holds a penguin on South Africa’s Robben Island, where he spent two weeks researching penguins for a Smithsonian article. (Photo courtesy of Charles Bergman)

April 14, 2015
By Evan Heringer '16
PLU Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, Wash. (April 14, 2015)—If you were to mix Indiana Jones with Steve Irwin and sprinkle in extensive knowledge of Shakespeare and the English language, you just might get Pacific Lutheran University Professor of English Dr. Charles Bergman.

From climbing into wolf dens in Alaska, to releasing parrots into the wild with the legendary Dr. Jane Goodall, to going undercover to bust illegal wildlife smugglers, Bergman is chockfull of captivating stories.

On Wednesday, April 15, Bergman will share some of those in a talk titled “Talking to Penguins.”

“I want to tell a story about a conversation I had with a penguin on South Georgia Island, which will lead to a discussion about whether we can get inside the minds of penguins and other animals—can we become closer to them and understand them better?” said Bergman. “And I’ll share what penguins and other creatures have told me about finding our way forward in an age of huge threats from global warming.”


What: Prof. Charles Bergman: ‘Talking to Penguins’
When: 7 p.m. April 15
Where: Regency Room, Anderson University Center
Admission: Free and open to the public
For more on Bergman’s articles, photography or upcoming projects: Visit his website.

The talk itself is somewhat of a “swan song”: After 38 years and a notoriously adventurous career at PLU, Bergman will begin phased retirement this summer. He is far from done with his work, however. Currently, Bergman is especially interested in two remarkable birds: parrots and penguins.

“Parrots? Because they’re so smart, and they are animals in the vanguard in showing us how much more they are than we give them credit for: personalities, intelligence, language [and] feelings,” said Bergman, who’s working on a project titled “Speak, Parrot,” which details his conversations with the highly intelligent birds. “I love penguins because they are irresistible. I love them because they remind us so much of… US!”

Bergman has a wondrous passion for the natural world and uses his mastery of the English language—and his camera—to capture it all.

“I love to be in the company of wild animals, and [I] have used my writing and photography to get magazine assignments,” said Bergman, whose writing and photography have appeared in esteemed magazines such as National Geographic and Smithsonian.

A two-time Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador and Mexico, Bergman has led more than 25 Study Away trips to places such as Cuba; France; Australia; Mexico; and, most notably, his J-Term trips to the beautiful, icy tundra down south, Antarctica. He also has taught a number of English literature and writing courses, including: Writing 101, English 301: Shakespeare and English 324: Freelance Writing. While Bergman teaches English courses, he possesses the uncanny ability to attract students of any major.

Amy Wooten ’15, a Communication major with a concentration in Public Relations and Advertising, decided to enroll in one of Bergman’s courses.

“I’m not an English major, but I decided to take his English 301: Shakespeare class, and he is definitely one of the best professors I have ever had,” she said. “I have never had a teacher make me cry, but after our final, he walked all of us out of the classroom and personally thanked us and talked about how much we had grown and I started tearing up.”