Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112
Around Myers Hollow
Passing the light
Robert Howat, professor emeritus of music, smiles as he sits behind his spotless desk in 306 Krieg Hall. A Wittenberg professor for 39 years, Howat has a lot to smile about as he reflects on his time at Wittenberg.
It was here that he played his first full piano recital in Weaver Chapel. It was here that he met the late President Emeritus Clarence Stoughton, a man whom Howat called “one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.”
It was here that two of Howat’s mentors, celebrated French composer, conductor and teacher Nadia Boulanger and Russian composer Alexander Tcherepnin, once visited. It was also here that Howat taught hundreds of young minds to appreciate music.
“I’ve enjoyed all the opportunities I’ve had to open doors for students to enjoy music.”
Opening educational doors for students has been the mission of Howat and seven other retiring professors, the most believed to retire at one time in Wittenberg’s history.
Projections indicate that 20 more faculty members will retire in the next five years followed by 27 between 2005 and 2010.
But Howat, Imogene Bolls, adjunct professor of English; Nathan Bolls, professor of biology; Elizabeth Brinkman, associate professor of English; E. Charles Chatfield, professor of history and the H. Orth Hirt Chair; Robert Cutler, associate professor of history; Richard Ortquist, professor of history and Caroline Zimmerman, assistant professor of health, fitness and sport, decided to call Wittenberg home.
During their combined 281 years of service to Wittenberg, these eight retiring professors have tried to instill in their students a deeper understanding of the world and their place in it.
They have witnessed numerous changes on campus and in succeeding generations. They helped define Wittenberg and were defined by the experience, and they all leave the university with a trunk load of memories.
Howat, for example, remembers when Wittenberg included a School of Music. “It was established to be one of the finest in the Midwest, and it was well on its way,” Howat recalls. “Students used to fight for practice rooms.”
Although he says the switch from the School of Music to a department of music in the 1980s changed the direction of music education here, Howat still thinks that music remains alive and well on campus.
“There are as many music opportunities on campus as there ever were,” he says. “The faculty haven’t done anything differently, and it’s a misperception that music has died here.”
But it was receiving the Alumni Association’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1972 that became Howat’s defining moment at Wittenberg. “To be recognized by faculty, students and alumni was touching,” he says.
One of the many nominating letters particularly caught his attention. It was from a former star football player who had taken Howat’s introduction to music class.
“He wrote that his parents had asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and he said he wanted a complete recording of the nine symphonies of Beethoven,” Howat says.
“Helping someone to appreciate the arts, especially music, is one of the most important things I’ve accomplished,” Howat adds.
“I take with me incredibly wonderful memories, and I think the music department, both the facility and faculty, are prepared for years to come.”
“Initially, I thought Wittenberg would be a good place to work while I finished my dissertation. But after a couple of years, I realized that it was exactly the sort of place where I could do what I wanted most to do — teach history.”
Richard Ortquist, Charles Chatfield and Robert Cutler think the history department is also poised for success in the next millennium.
“The people who we’ve hired, who will be replacing us, I’m convinced are going to be in the same category as us,” Ortquist says.
“Not only will they be good scholars and teachers, with a high priority to teaching students, but they are going to be good colleagues and not just in the history department.”
The largest group to retire at one time in the history department, Chatfield, Ortquist and Cutler agree that they will miss the everyday interaction with their colleagues. “I will miss the conversations in the hallway and the stimulating lunches,” Cutler says.
“Each of these fine people has contributed something important to my life each day, and I can’t imagine finding a substitute for them,” Cutler says. Chatfield adds that he will also miss the students. “They enliven me.”
Professors for a combined 104 years, Cutler, Chatfield and Ortquist have witnessed a few changes at Wittenberg throughout the decades.
Chatfield, who joined the faculty in 1961 and received the Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1996, says he has seen the university become “more sensitive and aware of the dynamics of the community and global contexts.”
A noted authority on the history of peace movements and past fellow at the Mershon Center for Education in National Security at The Ohio State University, Chatfield says that the growth of internationalism on campus has also impressed him.
Cutler, who specializes in medieval and ancient history and joined the history department in 1968, has noticed a change in emphasis throughout his time here.
“The emphasis on publication here has become much more insistent throughout my 30 years,” he says. “I resisted the argument that to be a good teacher you had to publish.
To be a good teacher, you had write and read, and attend and give papers, but publication was not essential in my opinion,” he says. “We need to keep a better balance than we do now.”
However, Ortquist, who has researched Depression-era Michigan, thinks that the students have not changed much since he first arrived in 1964. He says that they still seem to lack a balance between social and academic activities.
“I would like to see the students set their priorities so that academically they work hard and then they deserve to play,” he says.
A professor of American history, American constitutional history and American business history, Ortquist also would like the various departments to continue to hire high caliber, high quality faculty members.
“I would like to see us hire people who are excellent not just because they have a certain degree from a certain institution or may have certain publications, but that in their professional lives they are focused on teaching and have a strong commitment to this institution,” he says.
“The model I have in mind is the history department,” Ortquist adds. “In the history department, we haven’t hired a lot of people. What does this tell us,” he asks.
“It tells us that the people we hired in the ’60s who are now coming to retirement age have stayed here and worked out well. It’s a very positive thing.”
In addition to their varied observations, the trio has also experienced a few defining moments during their Wittenberg careers. For Cutler, it was the first class that “gelled” in such a way that everybody managed to take something of value from it.
“The most recent experience of that was my Pagans and Christians topics course, where each student brought his or her best ideas and efforts to our common enterprise,” he says.
“It stimulated me to do my best, and it was absolutely one of the best classes I have ever had in my 30 years.” Two events stand out in Chatfield’s mind: the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. “The community came together,” he says.
The support of the Wittenberg community during a time of illness was another defining moment.
“The place/community is such a part of me that I cannot imagine being completely separated from it, which is why we expect to stay in Springfield for the forseeable future.”
As for Ortquist, his defining moment was the day Wittenberg hired him. “It was exactly the kind of job I wanted, the kind of place where I wanted to be,” he says.
Fellow retiree Elizabeth Brinkman also thought highly of Wittenberg when she arrived back in 1966. “It was a place where people got work done,” she says.
The former director of Wittenberg Writers’ Workshop who has conducted research on writing motivation, children’s acquisition of language related to later writing patterns and English morphology and dialectology, Brinkman says she cannot name one particular defining moment at Wittenberg.
“There are many moments that impinge upon our personal, professional and interpersonal relationships,” she says.
A judge for the 1990 National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Awards in Writing, Brinkman says she will miss her students the most.
She remembers having some “super writers” in her literature survey courses and her personal essay course titled “Grammar, Rhetoric and Style.” “They went beyond what was needed.”
At the same time, though, Brinkman does have concerns about today’s students. “It’s a different breed of student,” she says, adding that more and more students tend to question the relevance of this or that course.
“How do they know what will be relevant to them at 18?” she asks. She also thinks some students are not willing to read the assigned materials. “I hope [future students] will not be afraid to read a text.”
In addition, she wonders how the impact of technology will affect the English department. “We don’t truly realize how the technological explosion will impact literature,” she says.
Despite her concerns, Brinkman now looks to the future. “My plan is to sit back and makes some plans,” she says.
“I wanted to help students learn more about themselves.”
— Caroline Zimmerman
The former Wittenberg women’s softball coach who has also researched health services in Scandinavian countries, Zimmerman says she has always wanted to teach, and she thinks she has made a difference in students’ lives.
“My mother used to say, ‘you help yourself when you help others,’ and I think I’ve done that.” For starters, Zimmerman made sure that her physical education classes understood the importance of community service prior to Wittenberg requiring it.
“Now a majority of academic classes require students to volunteer, but I implemented it in ’68 and ’69.” Her students volunteered at Elderly United and at the American Cancer Society, both in Springfield.
“They would do recreational activities with the elderly,” she says. “I will miss my involvement with the students,” she says. “They were willing to give themselves to people.”
In addition to teaching her students the importance of community service, Zimmerman also has taught courses on school health services, adaptive physical education, outdoor education, and physical activities for elementary education teachers.
“If people remain active, they can lead longer, happier, more productive lives,” she once told experts at the 34th World Congress of the International Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation in Ireland.
Yet Zimmerman still misses the health and physical education major the university once offered years ago. “When they dropped the major, it just took the legs right out from under us,” she says. “It was a big turning point.”
She considers that her defining moment, too, because it forced her to reevaluate her teaching methods. “We had to spread out and diversify into other areas,” she says.
Looking ahead, though, Zim-merman hopes the health, fitness and sport department will continue to help students learn more about themselves.
“The focus of the health, fitness and sport department is to educate students for a lifetime of activity,” she says. “I hope it continues.”
“Writing articulates the world and makes it more meaningful.”
— Imogene Bolls
Imogene Bolls and Nathan Bolls realized that Wittenberg was the place for them when they arrived back in the fall of 1963. “We were welcomed into the Wittenberg family,” Imogene Bolls says.
The former poet-in-residence and director of the journalism program at Wittenberg, Imogene Bolls still remembers her first classes.
One was English 101, and the other was a sophomore humanities course, in which she taught such classics as The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Illiad and Dante’s Inferno.
“There was real questioning and Socratic dialogue in that class,” she says, adding that it challenged students’ ways of thinking. “I realized that this is the place where I can do that,” she says.
Bolls has also had a series of defining moments during her 36-year tenure. “My defining moment has been when I’ve found out that I’ve made a significant difference in a person’s life,” she says.
Those moments made her realize that she could change lives and help people.“I will miss the ability to relate to students and faculty on a personal level,” she says. “Wittenberg has convinced me that I want to continue to work with young people.”
But throughout the years, Bolls has also noticed some changes on campus. The first is the trend toward big business in education and away from a Socratic university. “A university should be a center of ideas not dollars,” she says.
“Education is not a streamlined predictable process.” The second is a slow erosion of personal responsibility on the part of students. “Students are just as intellectually bright, but they are products of the telecommunication age,” she explains.
“In general, they are not willing to work and wait for success; they want instant gratification.” She has also found that students are more overtly troubled.
Bolls thinks part of the problem is that they haven’t learned to think for the sake of thinking without always coming up with the answers. As for her hopes for Wittenberg, she would like the university to return to more of an emphasis on personal
responsibility — meeting deadlines, keeping appointments, getting to classes on time — and continue to emphasize the liberal arts tradition. She also hopes that professors will continue to teach with personal integrity.
“The academy is made up of people who will take risks,” she says. “I hope they will stand up for what they believe in and not sell out to society or the common dollar.”
“Science is a light, a marvelous endeavor, but it has its limits.”
— Nathan Bolls
Along the same lines, Nathan Bolls also thinks the university has become more of a business than a place where people come to kick ideas around.
He recalls a provost once saying, “I am a committee of one trying to keep education from becoming too efficient.” “Education has to be inefficient or it becomes training,” Nathan Bolls says. “The individual needs time to chew things over.”
Noted for his work in animal physiology, Bolls has studied at Argonne National Laboratories, the American Museum of Natural History, the Galapagos Islands and the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.
As he looks back at his 36-year career at Wittenberg, he takes with him many memories. “Wittenberg is a small group, open-door intimate place,” he says.
“I will miss the sequence of interchanges that you grow accustomed to having in the classroom and with faculty in the halls.”
“You never know when and just how something is going to click for a student,” he says. This became clear one day when a student approached him in the hall. “The student came up and said ‘thank you.
I’ve studied this in two classes, but the way you went through it made it make sense.’” That was a defining moment, he says.
“We have really brought on a crackerjack bunch of professors,” he says. “I don’t worry that they are not prepared for the next millennium.”
Also, “students are more willing to share their feelings, and the administration is more open.” However, he thinks the students seem more concerned with getting ahead and protecting their self-esteem.
“I see our students surviving on self-esteem and not self-respect,” he says. He also worries about the perception of science these days. “Science has extreme limits,” he says.
Bolls explains that after science finds a cure for heart disease, for example, it won’t help cure some of the real problems plaguing society such as homelessness and the misdistribution of wealth.
Nonetheless, Bolls says he heads to Taos, N.M. with a sense of accomplishment and confidence. “I’ve enjoyed some measure of success with students and faculty,” he says. “It’s been a very positive experience.”
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112