Yesterday an 8" x 11" black and white photogaph of the
writer Albert Murray opened out of The New Yorker accompanying a piece
on Murray by Henry Louis Gates: frontal, full-face, staring up to the right,
caught in talk or thought, angular in its planes, quite literally the picture
of strength. I had to write the dates down in front of me -- 1996, 1916 --
because I couldn't quite believe that face was 80.
Only a week before I'd taken my daughter Katerina to meet Al's contemporary, Bob Blackmore, amidst his records and books and seedling lettuces, to listen to him talk about Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith. The conversation had moved to Murray, to the Omni-Americans and Stomping the Blues and to our mutual rememberings of Murray's time -- was it 25 years ago? -- as a visiting professor at Colgate.
Colgate has been blessed with an extraordinarily impressive faculty, past and present, with long-term presences like Bob, and indeed with visitors like Al. And by people on the cusp of Colgate's past and present: faculty retiring this spring. I'd like to sing a word or two of much-called-for praise for those faculty.
If you imagined all of this year's retirees sitting down to dinner, a great celebratory dinner (as I hope we will actually have this May), you would of course find their interests and accomplishments and talk range widely: from, say, ethics, to solid state physics, to genetics, or Pueblo history. Their expertise is clear and one might cite as example Jim Reynolds' Computing in Psychology, or Dick Frost's study in labor history, The Mooney Case, an important contribution to our understanding of civil liberties in the United States.
One might sing the praises of those seated at this celebratory table through a kind of serial biography, or talk, as I will now, about impressions of a repetitive voice or mark on Colgate.
About, for example, the ways in which Coleman Brown has contributed both as a teacher who has changed more student lives than one can count, and as someone on whom so many of his colleagues rely -- a kind of ethical center of this universe. I do not know where I'd be without Coleman, and I suspect there are any number of others who would say the same.
And Jim Reynolds, who has guided not only the psychology department but also this faculty as one of its most trusted leaders through most of the major issues that have confronted it in the last 20 years: arguing in his quiet, uncannily conversational tones for the highest of institutional standards, right on the money, holding us to the mark.
And Jim Clarke -- always ready to take on one more student, to care about those in academic difficulty as well as those at the top; to mentor and advise streams of Colgate students, whether in the American school or women's soccer.
Or Jim Lloyd, who not only worked tirelessly and imaginatively with his colleagues to revise the physics curriculum but also taught the lion's share of students in Physics 111 and 112 in recent years. Jim's wife Rachel, it should be noted, first brought dance to Colgate.
Or Bill Oostenink, whose round, large voice, marking his presence, was never more eloquently raised than when he eulogized his colleague and friend Jack Mitchell at the January faculty meeting: speaking of a clear, shared commitment to Colgate students and classroom teaching.
And Fred Weyter who initiated the National Institutes of Health study group for Colgate and thus added an important component to our off-campus offerings and to biology as well. Fred was also a constant and loyal contributor to the core..
And Jim Loveless, whose 30-year retrospective at the Picker this year was a sight to behold and showed an artist of real range, with particular excitement in its most recent works -- an artist who has taught painting and the core over the years, always a spokesman for the importance of the arts in general education.
Dick Frost gave a recent talk to the community; elegantly written and spoken, it characterized his ambitions for Colgate and indeed for civil discourse in America. I remember being a young faculty member almost 30 years ago, listening to that powerful voice with its parliamentarian's clarity. It was a pleasure to hear its retiring notes, beautifully articulated, worrying us into, directing us into the next century.