Faculty plan to work on side projects during phased retirement

Two SOAC faculty members will be saying goodbye to PLU (as if any Lute can truly say goodbye) and hello to retired life. Donna Poppe, assistant professor and music education chair, and John Hallam, associate professor of art and design, will enter phased retirement beginning the 2014-15 academic year. Phased retirement extends three years, and both will continue work with the university in a limited capacity until 2017-18. Read below as they reminisce about PLU and to hear their future plans.

John Hallam


What year did you begin at PLU?

I began in 1990 as chair of the Department of Art; I was chair for 15 years and served as interim Dean for one year before our present dean was hired.

What was PLU like when you arrived and how has it changed?

PLU was pretty much the same as it is today, only in far better financial shape with a more diverse student population and faculty. Ingram hasn’t changed except for a few paint jobs; I’m a survivor of two Ingram floods!

Most memorable moment:

Teaching my first J-Term study away course on 19th century French art in Paris. Both the students and the weather were amazing.  It’s remarkable to get the opportunity to do such traveling.

Plans for phased retirement:

Phased retirement plans include appraising the University’s permanent art collection. There are 700 objects in the collection; some have been given to us, other works we’ve purchased. We’ve come up with lists, but no one has the time, and no one has the money to outsource it for appraisal.  That needs to be done for insurance purposes and for our own knowledge of what some of this stuff is worth. That’s what I will have time to do. I will be evaluating and appraising our permanent art collection based on auction records, catalogs, online resources, talking to people, and based on what I know of its historical significance.

Donna Poppe


What year did you begin at PLU?

I began teaching as adjunct faculty in J-Term 1995, then as a full-time sabbatical replacement, and then hired in a tenure track position.

What was PLU like when you arrived and how has it changed?

The exchange of information has moved from paper in our mailbox to email in our inbox! The music department has only three professors remaining from the original fifteen when I started at PLU; and I have been pleased to be on the search committees for most of their successors.

Most memorable moment(s):

Coming from a few decades in the public schools, I was excited to apply the knowledge from that experience to undergraduates at PLU who would soon enter the field of music education. Knowing the background of Washington and Oregon public education was very helpful to me in both student teaching placement and eventual hiring of our graduates, which reached a very high rate. It has been my pleasure to help shift their paradigm from learning to teaching, and to help replace career music teachers on the front lines in the ongoing battle to maintain the Arts in our society.

All Music 101 classes I taught were exhilarating; having non-music readers create original notation often raised eyebrows as they transported their oversized ‘scores’ across campus to conduct them in class.

The ability to travel and to attend conferences was vital to me during my career at PLU. The Wang Center Grants and Regency Award allowed me to pursue a cross-disciplinary sabbatical research project at an archeological site in Egypt. The musical recordings (not previously documented) I gathered are now a permanent installation in the Children’s Museum of Cairo.

Plans for phased retirement:

I’m looking forward to more extended travel, with the ability to go birding at various destinations and the continued support of my PLU student Katie Hunt in Egyptology. She was on the ‘dig’ with me during my last sabbatical and I talked her into coming to PLU. Taking a more active role in my committee work for Seattle International Film festival, especially with the films supported by KPLU. Plus, a project for the music department.

Both Hallam and Poppe will be recognized at the SOAC Recognition Ceremony on Friday, May 23, all graduating SOAC majors and minors are invited to attend.



Grad School Bound Graduates

A few of our talented SOAC graduates will be continuing their study at the graduate level. Read below to see where a few of our grads are headed and their dreams for the future.

Brendan Fitzgerald ’14 (Sociology) is headed to Yale University School of Music. He was accepted into the Institute of Sacred Music, a tuition free program. During his time at PLU he was awarded the Mary Baker Russell Music Scholarship Award, the 2013 Student Employee of the year, and recently the Ubuntu Leadership Award. He’s a member the Choir of the West, University Chorale, University Men’s Chorus, PLU Opera and PLUtonic.

When asked how PLU prepared him for this next step he said, “PLU’s focus on critical thinking, always striving for students to seize every opportunity, and those professors that care about their student’s success by networking with them and pushing them to go for opportunities they would have otherwise thought unobtainable.”

Fitzgerald’s dream career would be the perfect combination of singing while pursuing a career in firefighting.

Tessa Heck ’12 (BFA Painting/Drawing) will be working toward an MFA in Visual Studies at Pacific Northwest College of Art. During her year off she studied Post-baccalaureate art and art therapy in Missoula, MT where she also taught elementary art at Zootown Arts Community Center.  She is currently living in Bozeman as a practicing artist and helping to start up a local cider house. During her time at PLU she received an Artistic Merit Scholarship, was on the Dean’s List, was a Scholar Athlete (Swimming) and won several awards in exhibition work in the University Gallery.

Tessa began selling her work after PLU, she’s held four shows and has sold more than 20 pieces. “I have learned to market my work and to be proud of what I do!”

“Through my education at PLU, I was able to study abroad in London and intern for a contemporary print gallery for art management,” Heck said. “This experience shaped my passion for art and taught me that art is a viable way to make a career. I gained self-confidence being far out of my comfort zone and learned how to be independent.  I also decided through this, I would one day attend graduate school for an MFA.”

Heck’s goal is to someday own a small business in the arts. She has also contemplated becoming a professor or art teacher.

“At this point I am unsure of what that will be exactly-but I know my entrepreneurial mindset will find something interesting!” Heck said. “Whatever I end up doing it is important to me to always be a practicing artist.”

Photograph by Megan Konkel

Photograph by Megan Konkel

Megan Konkel ’14 (Art History) – will be attending Pratt Institute for photography. She’s been a teacher’s assistant for photography classes the last two semesters, where she helps mix and track the chemistry used for photo development, while managing the classroom. Her work is currently up in the University Gallery as part of the Senior Exhibition: ART IS THIS. She’s also submitted work to the Philippine Relief Fund along with prominent alumni. She’s been doing more abstract and expressionist photography, and says that the program at Pratt is a perfect fit.

“You can dabble in different mediums, film, painting, sculpture, or anything you want,” Konkel said. “So, it’s more experimental and allows you more freedom of what you’re working with.”

“I think the PLU experience really tries to help guide you and help you figure out what you’re passionate about and what your interested in, and not just about money or what’s going to make you successful, but something you’re actually going to enjoy doing for 30+ years,” Konkel said. “I know a lot of students here come in thinking they’re going to do one thing and end up changing their mind. The professors and people in the Art Department, both art history and fine art are just wonderful, are really supportive and really try to help you out.”

Konkel’s not sure where she’s headed after graduate school, but will most likely look for photography jobs or internships.

“I’m hoping this will help me figure it out and give me some good contacts,” Konkel said.