The Colgate Scene
May 2003

The next chapter begins

Among those retiring from Colgate in 2003 are three distinguished scholars -- Wil Albrecht, Wanda Warren Berry, Charlie Holbrow -- who inspired their students, encouraged and supported their faculty colleagues, and made incalculable contributions to the vitality of the intellectual community that the university represents.

Wil Albrecht [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]
The blessings of friendship

Finding it unexpectedly hard to write a retirement piece about my old friend Wil Albrecht, I wandered the third floor of Lawrence Hall asking my colleagues, "What should I say about Wil?" One said, "You should quote from the preface to his edition of Porius." Another offered, "Talk about Wil's bird-watching." Further down the hall -- "His leadership in Core 152," "his passion for flying," "his magisterial knowledge of the 19th century," "his role in the creation of the Manchester Study Group," "his service as chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee" -- behind every door I found another view of the essential Wil Albrecht. Someone else ventured, "Write about his humanism, about his friendships." I warm to that.

Wil's great friendship with the late Robert L. Blackmore led him to assume the directorship of the Colgate University Press when Bob retired. Blackmore was devoted to the press and to the project of publishing the work of the Welsh writer John Cowper Powys. Wil inherited Bob's dream of seeing the full text of Powys's epic novel, Porius: A Romance of the Dark Ages, finally in print. Powys himself thought Porius "the best book of my life," but its massive size (it runs to 873 pages in the Colgate University Press edition) and the shortage of paper after World War II made it impossible to find a publisher who would print the novel uncut. Wil's long labor over the 2,811 holograph pages at the University of Texas, the 1,859 pages of the Colgate-owned typescript and the additional 620 pages of the Bissell typescript was his way of paying due diligence not only to Powys and to the Colgate Press, but most of all to his friendship with Blackmore.

Many of Wil's colleagues have shared the warmth of his long friendship with John McGahern, the Irish novelist and writer of short stories and former Olive B. O'Connor Professor of literature at Colgate. In their younger days, one might have thought they were mapping London. John and Wil would begin their conversation at some familiar pub in Soho, and by dinner time would have wandered east to Limehouse to dine at their favorite Chinese restaurant, The Good Friends. From there they were off to a neighboring pub, The Hollands, for "one last pint." But when that establishment closed at midnight they would make their way, the talk still flowing, to Billingsgate, where the local was licensed to serve the fish porters the whole night long. Whenever I walk through the etched glass doors of a London pub, I half expect to see them there, much older now, still talking. All of us at Colgate owe some small debt to this friendship. Without it we would not have the great good fortune to know John McGahern as we do.

Wil Albrecht hates sentimentality, and I must guard my words now to keep him from bristling at them. John McGahern, in his Irish way of speaking, always calls Wil "Himself." That catches something of the man. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of us have done what we have done at Colgate because of Wil's friendship. We joined the staff of Core 152 (The Challenge of Modernity) when he directed that program in order to learn from him, to hear his thoughts on Darwin and Freud, to gain something from the great breadth of his reading, the profundity of his insight. His range was enormous. He possessed the English poets and essayists from the Romantics to the Victorians, from William Blake to Matthew Arnold, and when he spoke of Wordsworth and of Keats, it was not his students only who sat at his feet to listen. Someone once remarked of Samuel Taylor Coleridge that there was nothing remarkable about him except that he had read 2,000 books. Wil Albrecht is unremarkable in the same way.

Wanda Warren Berry
A pioneer for equality

In 1962, the first year women taught at Colgate, Wanda Warren Berry was one of two women teaching all male classes in different general education components. At issue was proving whether women could teach in general -- and could teach men in particular. Since then, with only a few years off, Wanda has been a member of the faculty in the philosophy and religion department. She retires as a full professor.

Wanda is a teacher par excellence. Few teachers work harder to develop syllabi and structure course content than does Wanda. Hundreds of Colgate students have learned from, and with, her. Generous in her willingness to adjust her teaching preferences to department or program needs, Wanda has taught a wide variety of courses, including several developed specifically to attend to societal needs. Commitment and Cynicism, for example, emerged from wide-ranging discussions about the so-called Generation X, while Religious Faith and Social Ethics: Love/Power/Justice vs. Terrorism is in response to the repercussions of 9/11.

Programs across the university have been enriched by Wanda's participation. For women's studies, Wanda has taught both the introductory course and senior seminar, cross-listed religion courses, and served on the Center for Women's Studies advisory board. The Center for Peace Studies counts a cross-listed course and Wanda's membership on its advisory board. Moreover, Wanda has helped shape and has taught in several incarnations of Colgate's general education program, bringing her careful analyses of course materials to both students and staff.

Within our department, nearly every year recently, Wanda has held the record for directing the highest number of honors papers on a wide array of topics. She is painstakingly thorough, whether in critiquing drafts or in developing departmental policy for honors work. An exemplary colleague, Wanda has participated actively in department searches on both sides of the department.

Teaching, while her passion, is not the only way Wanda has served Colgate. Persistent regarding Colgate's attention to affirmative action, Wanda served twice as director of that program, each time developing a plan for recruiting increased numbers of women and minorities. During those terms and beyond, Wanda's concern about fairness and equal opportunity led to advising several faculty and staff members about these issues.

Soren Kierkegaard's multifaceted writings have been the focus of much of Wanda's research. With a few other scholars, Wanda has launched work on feminist aspects of Kierkegaard's thought, an approach that she considers her present niche in Kierkegaard scholarship. Some of her earlier work, especially feminist theology essays on authors such as Mary Daly and Rosemary Radford Ruether, has also been reprinted. Although she might occasionally teach a course, Wanda sees retirement as an opportunity to pull much of her unpublished work together.

Educated first at Boston University, Wanda earned a masters of divinity from Yale University in 1957, a time when few women pursued this degree. Some years later she received her Ph.D. from Syracuse University. The recipient of several awards and the Danforth Fellowship for Women, Wanda has served as the president and vice president of the Soren Kierkegaard Society as well as on the Steering Committee of the Kierkegaard Group of the American Academy of Religion.

In addition to furthering her scholarly work, retirement offers Wanda treasured time with her husband, Donald L. Berry, Harry Emerson Fosdick Professor of philosophy and religion emeritus, their daughters Martha and Ruth and their precious grandsons Samuel and Benjamin.

Wanda Warren Berry has been a friend and colleague for many years. I find it difficult to imagine meetings of the philosophy and religion department's staff and faculty without her voice.

Charlie Holbrow
A virtuoso at teaching

I first met Charles Holbrow, Charles A. Dana Professor of physics, in the fall of 1973 when I began my teaching career. I was to teach an introductory course in modern physics that he had taught the year before. Being new and uncertain, I asked him for advice. He graciously took me into his combination office and research lab and showed me the text he used and a neatly bound set of extensive notes he made for the lectures. I was struck by both the obvious care evident in his lectures and the wealth of material he covered in the course. It left me a bit shaken and asking myself, "How could I do anything like that?"

It was clear from my earliest interactions with Charlie that he was an academic leader in all the best senses of the word. His excellence in teaching and willingness to try fresh approaches to a continually changing student population has inspired not just Colgate physics but a broad national audience. Some of his innovations in teaching can be seen in his textbook, Modern Introductory Physics, by Holbrow, Lloyd and Amato. There he breaks with the ancient tradition of teaching classical mechanics and electromagnetism before introducing students to modern physics. Rather than teaching higher-level courses on material already covered in high school, he engages beginning students with quantum mechanics and relativity.

Along with pioneering new approaches to introductory physics, Charlie also has been active in advanced undergraduate physics education. From 1992 to 1998, he was editor of the "New Problems" section of the American Journal of Physics. With his colleagues, Enrique Galvez and Elizabeth Parks in the Colgate physics department, he is currently involved in an NSF-sponsored laboratory project titled "Photon quantum mechanics for undergraduates."

Along with his virtuoso teaching and educational reform, he has been actively engaged in nuclear physics research at Colgate and many other schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, University of Vienna in Austria, SUNY at Stony Brook, and at major research laboratories such as the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Kellogg Radiation Laboratory at Cal Tech, and the Heavy-Ion Research Facility in Darmstadt, Germany. One of Charlie's passions is integrating undergraduate students into his own research. His leadership in this effort has helped make undergraduate participation in research a hallmark of our department.

Charlie's leadership also expressed itself through the many administrative assignments he assumed at Colgate, where he has been chairman of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the director of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Currently he is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Physics.

Charlie's education began with a B.A. in history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He then went to Columbia University, where he obtained an M.A. in history and Certificate of the Russian Institute. His restless spirit took him back to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his Ph.D. in physics. Then, after three years of teaching at Haverford College, 15 months as a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania and six months as associate editor of Physics Today, he came to Colgate. His continuing interest in history has led him to study the origins of nuclear astrophysics, and he has just finished a biographical essay on the nuclear physicist Charles C. Lauritsen.

His teaching reflects his interest in the historical and cultural context of physics. He has several times taught a course titled The Making of the Atomic Bomb at Colgate and, last year, at the University of Vienna. He and Colgate mathematician Thomas Tucker jointly teach a course on Lagrange's Mechanics and Mathematics and the Enlightenment.

I'll complete my note by returning to my personal association with Charlie. He has exerted a strong influence on my teaching of physics and its relationship to research. His energy and enthusiasm, wide range of interests and high standards continuously challenge everybody in our department to reach higher and devise creative ways of igniting our students' love of learning. Although we at Colgate will miss his brilliance, [the] American Association of Physics Teachers will surely shine brightly with Charlie as its president.

This essay originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of The Physics Teacher, published by the American Association of Physics Teachers. Charlie Holbrow is the 2003 president of the AAPT.
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