Influential Whitman College Teachers
R. V. "Nig" Borleske, '10
Chester Maxey, '12
David Stevens, '47
G. Thomas Edwards
By Ruth Baker Kimball, '31
Mr. Brown was a superb scientist, a scientist from the ground up, and extremely intelligent. He knew so much, but what made him such a good teacher was that he wanted to share his knowledge. He imparted what he knew with care and love. He was quiet, soft-spoken. Everybody listened because you didn't want to interrupt him.
Benjamin Brown, who came to Whitman in 1895, was a dynamic and brilliant teacher who used ingenious, homemade experiments to teach physics. He had a gift for original research, and he was a visionary. "I studied with him long before the advent of the quantum theory, the neutron, and artificial radioactivity," said one student quoted by President Penrose in a 1937 article. "Yet one of his favorite dreams or prophecies dealt with exactly those matters."
Brown retired in 1926 but continued as a lecturer at the College until 1930. He died in 1950.
He made us work hard, but he gave us work to do that was interesting. He used experiments and observations made up from what he had available, but they inspired us to question things and to think.
I remember he had a telescope at his house, which was in Garden City Heights, next to the current location of the Walla Walla Little Theatre. Sometimes in the evening, we would go up there to view the skies from the telescope. Mr. Brown would talk to us first. We were spellbound because he had a way of instilling a sense of wonder about nature. He let us look through the telescope to appreciate for ourselves the wonder and beauty of the universe.
Professor Brown had such a warm and kindly way about him, and he was a very humble man. His teaching went beyond the realm of science. In so many instances he set us a wonderful example. We knew that he had been married to his invalid wife for a long time and was very devoted to her. It must have taken a lot of patience, but he took care of her. And he showed us the same kind of patience.
I've never forgotten his quiet, dignified presence.
By Ruth Van Patten Thompson, '39
What are my memories of Edith Davis? She was always pleasant and understanding, the sort of teacher who truly welcomed those students who came to her for advice. She was rather plain in appearance, with her hair always in a bun. She wore no makeup and didn't seem to care how she dressed, but this was completely unimportant since her sparkling eyes and ever-present smile made her the lady whom we all loved.
Edith Davis served the students of Whitman College from 1901 to 1946. She taught drama, Greek, Latin, and English. She died in 1966. |
I majored in English literature and speech, so I took a number of her classes as well as classes from her husband, dear Mr. Davis. Under their tutelage I developed my passion for literature and the spoken and written arts. In writing classes Mrs. Davis required not only well-written and correct work but also originality. She expected a lot from her students but was generous with praise for work well done.
In drama classes, she instilled a sense of confidence and appreciation for the history of the theater and, of course, the chance to act, to direct, and to stage plays. Both her speech and drama classes helped students to develop stage presence and the ability to organize and present information.
I owe her a special debt of gratitude. At the end of my senior year, I was completely bogged down and was unable to finish my final project. Mrs. Davis allowed me to finish the project and turn it in late for complete credit. Also, when I was taking my final oral examination with most of my professors present, I was grateful for her inclusive but fair questioning.
Personally, I owe a lot to Mrs. Davis. My lifetime career as a high-school librarian demanded all of these skills. And I drew upon the abilities she developed when I had opportunities to work with the State Department of Education, the Washington State Library, and the Washington State Association of School Librarians.
My personal life has been enriched by participation in little theater as an actor, director, and judge. And four years ago I came out of retirement to work as the editorial director for Illumination Arts, a publisher of children's picture books.
As they say, "What goes around, comes around."
R. V. "Nig" Borleske, '10
by John S. "Bud" Applegate, '32
R. V. "Nig" Borleske, legendary coach of Whitman teams back in the 1920s and 1930s, was always. "Nig" to his friends by his own choice. We, his players, his students, if you will, since he was our teacher as well as our coach, never thought of the name Nig. To us, with the respect due him as our teacher, the same as if we were in the classroom, we thought of him and spoke to and of him only as Mr. Borleske.
Raymond Vincent "Nig" Borleske, '10, played professional baseball and earned a law degree before returning to Whitman in 1915. He coached men's sports and served as athletic director for 32 years, retiring in 1947. He died in 1957.|
He was entitled to the respect of being called Mr. Borleske to his face by his players and got it. He had a heart as big as all outdoors, and we knew that he secured jobs for players many times without mentioning it, although candor compels the obvious admission that it was to his advantage as a coach to do so. Whatever helped the team helped Nig as a teacher and coach.
We had a tough schedule in all sports. In football annually we played the University of Washington, Washington State University, the University of Idaho, and Gonzaga, as well as traveling to California a real treat to flog the University of the Pacific for two straight years, returning each year with a potted palm (Nig turned a famous blind eye) for the girls in Prentiss. Going to California two years in a row? Just one of Nig's gifts to us as his players.
I played for Nig for four years at the peak of his coaching career from 1928 to 1931, lettering and being on the first team in three sports football, basketball, and track. As the quarterback in football for four years, I received a bit of recognition, all-star stuff, extending beyond our conference. We won our conference title in all sports in all of these four years, including baseball, which Nig coached in addition to football and basketball. He didn't coach track. Many of my friends believed he was probably at his strongest as a baseball coach and strategist.
To us, his players, he was our teacher, the same as if we were in the classroom, and to us, the townspeople, his competing coaches and players, and others, he was one hell of a guy and one hell of a coach and teacher, teaching by example.
Chester Maxey, '12
By Baker Ferguson, '39
I grew up in Walla Walla just a few blocks away from Whitman. I arrived as a freshman in 1935 at age 16 in the middle of the depression years when there were only a few hundred students, and the school was obviously in tough financial times.
A 1912 graduate of Whitman, Chester C. Maxey was Miles C. Moore Professor of Political Science from 1925 to 1959. He served as dean of the social sciences from 1934 to 1948. He was president of Whitman College from 1948 to 1959, returning in 1967 for a year as acting president. He died in 1984.|
Yet I had several excellent teachers. My debate coach and public speaking teacher, John Ackley, was one of the very best. English professors Paul Jackson and Tommy Howells were great. And I will always value and remember three courses I took from Dr. Stephen Penrose ethics, logic, and comparative religion. He had just recently retired as president, and he was blind; yet he was still an excellent teacher.
But the teacher who influenced me most was definitely Chester Maxey. I took all his courses, and he was my adviser and dean of my division, and I was able to have him as my thesis adviser.
I can't honestly say that he was a great lecturer, but he knew his material, and in discussions he was superb. We also read his textbooks, which were well done, and it was fun to study the author of our texts. His constitutional law course was my favorite because the cases raised all the controversies and major issues of America in that period.
It is true that Maxey was of the old school and rather formal or traditional. Still he took an interest in me and a lot of my friends. He mentored scores of students to go on to law school and become lawyers and judges. And when I told him I was interested in going to Harvard Business School, he took me aside in my junior year and said the only way I could possibly get in there was to get my grades way up and do straight A work in my senior year. I responded to his challenge and did all A work that year. And he helped get me in Harvard Business School, even though I entered on probation.
I also remember him coming to dinner at the Beta House, and I can still recall his kind words of praise right after my senior oral comprehensive exams.
Maxey taught and worked at Whitman for about 34 years, and he had a great positive impact on me and hundreds, if not thousands, of other Whitman students.
By Marilyn McMillan Sparks, '52
Louise Smith Pope was brought up to be a lady and trained to be a scientist and a teacher. Naturally a liberal arts person, she became a mentor in the Whitman College biology department for untold numbers of students. She and her husband Philip became family as well as friends for me; I lived with them at "the Vatican" while I was a student.
Louise Pope and her husband, Philip, came to Whitman in 1930 to teach biology. Louise retired in 1962 as associate professor of biology emeritus. She died in 1970.|
In the classroom and laboratory, Louise Pope devoted herself to engaging students in the serious business of biology. It was her attitude that we were involved in the same academic enterprise as she was or we ought to be. The content was interesting without being decorated or given comedy routine; sometimes it was daunting and challenging, and frequently we were made aware that she was initiating us into the basic knowledge that could lead to very wide possibilities ahead. Every student was respected, and participation in the class and laboratory was expected. Students for whom the subject was too much terra incognita were given encouragement and assistance. I imagine that laziness was given severe treatment, but I did not wish to find out from personal experience.
The refrigerator at home usually contained some items intended for subsequent professional use. Louise Pope warned me when I moved to their home that I should be wary of its contents. It might contain culture dishes with colorful growths of colonies of plant or animal cells that might look like leftovers beyond rescue. Phil used the refrigerator to persuade a rattlesnake to become dormant so it would pose for its photographic portrait. He kept cool the end of one of his fingers which he'd accidentally removed with the electric carving knife. Neither he nor Louise was in condition to prepare microscope slides from the piece of finger to use in biology lab; Art Rempel reluctantly agreed to do it.
There always was humor and good wit in the household. The "Pun-ic" Wars between Philip Pope and Frank Haigh (chemistry) were conducted through several years; many of the puns were in classical Greek which had to be explained to some of us. Louise led the chorus of cheers or groans. There were jokes and anecdotes from our lives and from literature.
It may be glimpsed that Louise Pope did indeed, in the vernacular, "have it all." She was her own person and a devoted partner in marriage, a wife, a mother, a professional woman, a teacher, and an active collegial and community and church person. At the same time she recognized that it was a privilege and a richly-filled life and she enjoyed it. What more could one require in a mentor!
By Charles E. "Chuck" Anderson, '50
Martial, intellectual, courtly, humorous, accomplished actor this rather eclectic melange is the way I remember Herr Fredric "Fritz" Santler, professor of German. His classes mirrored this complex personality. Efficient, germanic-style drills on the one hand (you could almost hear "ein, zwei" in the background) giving way to flights of fancy, not always about the subject at hand, but always fascinating and fraught with lessons about life his or yours.
Fred Santler taught German for 43 years, from 1932 to 1975, also serving terms as dean of the faculty and vice president for administration. He retired as Distinguished Professor of Modern Languages Emeritus. He died in 1989.|
A man of the old school, he was unfailingly polite to women students but could and did deliver clever barbs so male students whose performance was not up to his standards. Often, he needed to say nothing to convey how far out in left field you might have wandered. He possessed a marvelously expressive face, and the raised eyebrows, pursed lips, and bemused expression said volumes. But good work, recitations in particular, could elicit an almost beatific smile accompanied by dancing eyes and an enthusiastic "Ach! Ja, ja, wunderbar!"
Those were cherished moments. A consummate actor, some might even say "ham," he would pace back and forth in front of the class as
we translated Drei Kameraden or Ein Americkanischer Abenteuer, arms waving, making the stories come alive.
In those days at Whitman, many on the faculty or staff wore more than one hat. Herr Santler's other hat was as athletic director. His office in the old gym was roughly where Olin Hall is today and our German class (at 8 a.m.) was in Memorial. Herr Santler was an early riser and in that office at 6:30 or 7:00. Often he worked right up to the last minute before class or maybe a minute or two beyond. Then we were treated to a memorable sight Herr Santler, arms flailing, tie waving, making the three-hundred-yard dash across Ankeny Field to beat the 8:10 deadline when the class would have been cancelled. I will never forget that picture.
Teacher, raconteur, gentleman, friend. Professor Fred Santler was one of a kind a great one.
By Frank Morrall, '59
I knew Paul Jackson as a student in the late l950s. Three years later I returned to Whitman for two years as an instructor in English. Through all those years Paul was a warm, inspiring, humorous, and thoughtful model and mentor. To use Tom Wolfe's recent book title, he was "a man in full."
Paul Jackson joined the English department in 1935. He was dean of the faculty from 1954 to 1963, and retired as Mary A. Denny Professor of English in 1970. He died in 1976.|
I first met Paul at his house, 811 Statesman Avenue, early in my freshman year. To my eyes it seemed a magic house, a little estate in the 1950s clutter of suburban Walla Walla, complete with tennis court and a little creek with a small bridge one crossed to reach the front door. It was a house full of books, music, and good talk, all presided over by Paul with twinkling eyes and ironic wit.
In his late 40s then, Paul was a man of many roles. Through most of the 1950s he was dean of the faculty and chair of the English department, as well as teaching Shakespeare and Chaucer. With Tom Howells he had invented the astonishingly inspiring, though nearly impossible to teach, freshman humanities program, two courses that introduced freshmen to the philosophies of either Susanne K. Langer or Ernst Cassirer while placing before them key works of architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and literature, all subjects Paul knew well.
The freshman sequence reflected the breadth of Paul's interests. As a young man he had debated between a life in literature or music. He had talent for and desire to be a concert pianist. Though he chose literature, the symbol of his musical interest remained in his living room throughout his life, the Steinway Grand given him by his mother when he was 20.
Paul was also a man of the theater. During the early 1940s, again with Tom Howells, he created Walla Walla's community theater. I never saw Paul act, except perhaps in the classroom as he read lines of Shakespeare in his fine mellow voice. Those who did say he was a talented actor and director.
While I was at Whitman, Paul wrote a three act play, The Medici Way, the story of Henri II of France (Rod Alexander) and Diane de Poitiers (Arlene Dumond). It was a play that gave Rod the opportunity to die magnificently and me the once-in-a-lifetime chance to play the Duke de Guise. How satisfying it was to act in a play written by my professor of Shakespeare.
Teacher, administrator, mentor, warm human being, Paul inspired students to love Shakespeare and Chaucer. He was also largely responsible for a generation of Whitman students learning something of our western heritage of art from antiquity to the 20th century. Many of us followed his path into the academy. In his time and place he was a great teacher and mentor and in every sense an academic man in full.
By Craig Lesley, '67
Tommy Howells was a wonderful professor but the most unlikely-looking Santa Claus I had ever seen. The red felt suit draped from his small frame, and his small feet slopped in oversized black boots. This was late December 1966. Whitman students gathered around the Christmas tree in the old SUB where Marky Hillyer had just finished a lovely rendition of "O' Holy Night." Then Howells shuffled in, white beard askew, a large sack of goodies slung over his back. Tapping his chest with his fluttery right hand, the nervous habit he always had, he studied the rows of seated students and remarked, eyes twinkling: "Oh, I see you're having a sit-in. Just exactly what are you protesting?" Everyone laughed. As usual, Howells had hit upon the perfect witty remark. (After all, this was the '60s and protests were as common as piercings today.)
Tom Howells inspired nearly a half century's worth of Whitman students. He arrived as an English instructor in 1938 and retired in 1977 as Mary A. Denny Professor of English. After retirement he continued to teach general studies and English for a time as an adjunct professor. He died in 1991.|
I stumbled into Tommy Howells' world lit class my sophomore year because I knew I couldn't pass organic chemistry, and I desperately needed another major. Coming from the small towns of eastern Oregon, I thought Seattle was exotic. Suddenly, I found myself plunged into alien landscapes: Mann's Magic Mountain, Borges' labyrinths, Camus' plagues. The existential works of Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. All pretty much over my head. Best plan hunker down and take notes. Howells seated us alphabetically, so I sat next to Dick Lilly, an upperclassman and one of the brightest guys of his era.
Howells lectured brilliantly, occasionally referring to small black notebooks that seemed to contain the esoteric wisdom of the ages. Dick offered his observations and commentaries. I'd never seen such high-octane discussions. When Howells' hand fluttered to his chest, his trademark gesture, I wrote down every word he spoke. That flutter signalled the most important ideas.
How brilliant was Howells? You go figure. One time Harold Sims was ill and Howells showed up to dismiss the Greek literature class. As students gathered note books, Howells turned to the door, a false exit, because he paused, then asked, "By the way, what were you going to study today?"
Howells hesitated, hand fluttered over chest, and he said, "Maybe I can offer an idea or two." What followed was an absolutely brilliant 70-minute lecture on Sappho's odes that left me speechless. All off the top of his head no small black notebooks. Even to this day, I wonder if he and Sims collaborated ahead of time a little practical joke on the students. After all, behind that twinkle in the eye and quick smile, Howells had a great sense of humor. Could he have lectured that well from memory?
In 1997, I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris for the French translations of Winterkill and The Sky Fisherman. My editor and I spent one afternoon strolling the cemeteries where Sartre, Camus, Simone de Beauvoir were buried. Clearly, he was proud of France's literary heritage, and he seemed happy I knew so much about the existentialists. Back in my hotel room were the notebooks from that long ago world literature class,
filled with Howells' pithy, insightful observations. (And
a couple of Dick Lilly's.) Thanks, fellas.
By Betty Eidemiller, '74
I sat in Introduction to Zoology, trying to absorb it all, quickly scribbling notes. Alas, I could only write with one hand! There was Dr. Rempel, the master of all knowledge that seemed important in the world, lecturing rapidly and precisely, a piece of chalk in each hand, drawing incredible illustrations with one hand, simultaneously labeling them with the other. Yet, seemingly he never turned his back on the class, and we could always see the love of learning in his face.
Spencer F. Baird Professor of Biology Emeritus Art Rempel came to Whitman College in 1938. Although he retired in 1975, a generation later he continues to teach as he conducts nature walks about the campus, lectures at alumni events, and leads alumni and friends on natural history safaris.|
The great teachers stretch our reach; challenge us to do more than we think possible. Dr. Rempel's classes were demanding, time-intensive, five-credit classes. But there he was, spinning stories of scientific wonder spirals of a snail, the wildebeest stampeding across African plains or opening our eyes to the birds in the skies. We all wanted to know, to understand, just as he did, and to have these great adventures for ourselves.
Students don't follow behind great teachers as the ducklings followed Konrad Lorenz; rather these great teachers face the students, just out of reach with arms outstretched, just as a parent reaches to a child taking the early steps. As the child begins to walk it is not the feet of which the child is conscious, rather the beckoning arms or the object of desire just out of reach. With the stretching to reach, the feet come along, and one day those feet are the means to do many other things, even to taking a Watson wanderjahr to see for yourself the magnificent marsupials of Australia or the insectivorous elephant shrews of East Africa, an unachievable fantasy for a farm girl from Idaho.
Twenty-five years ago I had an image of what my life path might be. Of course, it has been quite different. What does it matter that differentiating protostomes and deuterostomes was not a daily function? Once skills are sharpened, confidence grows, and the feet can be trusted, an exciting and worthwhile trail will beckon. Thanks, Dr. Rempel. I hope I too have passed on to my students the love of learning and of life that you demonstrated.
Oh, and I can't forget great teachers don't take themselves too seriously. Although your reputation and height were formidable, one stanza of your singing "Parasites on Parade" would make us all giggle!
David Stevens, '47
By Robert Hinnen, '91
I first met Professor Stevens as a student in his introductory economics class in 1987. At the time, I recall having already heard economics described as the "dismal science" and I had no great expectations for a class that met early in the morning at Memorial. Professor Stevens, looking a little rumpled and perhaps even a little wild, stood at the front of the class that first morning and redefined my expectations.
David Stevens, '47, taught economics at Whitman College for 47 years. He was also dean of administration and chair of the faculty. The Roger and Davis Clapp Professor of Economic Thought, Stevens taught through 1998. He is currently living in Napa, California. |
Where others might have been content to merely review the material in the textbook, Professor Stevens challenged us to see economics in a broader context. Dry theories were liberally sprinkled with anecdotes about the strange parade of characters who developed the theories and real-life examples of the theories at work in our own lives. As many of you will remember, Professor Stevens liked almost nothing better than storytelling. Many was the morning that the students rolled in laughter as we studied the "dismal science." As we laughed, we learned.
Over my years at Whitman, Professor Stevens became a close friend and mentor. He took a direct interest in my life and the lives of my fellow students. He counseled us about our education and futures. He invited our class to his home on Mill Creek to study in small groups. I learned as much about art, wine, and friendship on those trips to his home as I did about economics.
I once heard a fellow student describe Professor Stevens as both cantankerous and an excellent teacher in the same sentence. At the time I thought the cantankerous characterization unjust. I later learned that Professor Stevens considered the comment a compliment. He
could be both impatient and patient. His expectation for his students was always high and he had absolutely no patience for those he felt set their sights too low. He was not afraid of being perceived as cantankerous.
If that was necessary to get his students to stretch, then so be it.
At the same time, he always had time for students who had decided to stretch themselves but needed guidance and assistance to succeed. His office door was always open, and he might start a class by giving the students his home phone number to call if they needed help. He expected us to call and we did.
Outside of my family, I can think of no other person who has so influenced my growth and development as a human being. I am not unique in this. Over the years I have met people from several generations, ranging from those in their early 20s to those in their mid-60s, who
feel the same way. Professor Stevens has spent his
life dedicated to Whitman College and his students. Whitman College and his students are the richer for it.
By Robert S. "Robb" Ball, '64
Bob Fluno was a positive influence on the lives of innumerable students at Whitman. For me, he was more than an effective teacher of political science he was a mentor and a friend. I know that many other students had similar relationships with him.
Robert Fluno taught at Whitman from 1952 until his retirement in 1982 as the Miles C. Moore Professor of Political Science Emeritus. He also served as chair of the social sciences division and of the political science department. He died in 1990.|
Dr. Fluno ("R. Y." as he was called by students, but not to his face) was well known in the student body for more than his brilliance. He could be both intimidating and warm, demanding and forgiving and, especially in later years, difficult to understand for those not accustomed to his low voice and his speech habits. He was also personally concerned with the success of his students, both in and outside the classroom.
I have rarely seen anyone as dedicated to teaching. In the first semester of my freshman year in the fall of 1959, I enrolled in Dr. Fluno's first year course in political science. He required substantial reading between classes and the submission of a paper at the beginning of each class. Each paper was returned at the next class, thoroughly edited. Each paper and exam were graded, with a ranking against all other papers and exams (this was his practice in all classes). I knew I was studying under a prodigious worker and highly skilled teacher. He challenged everyone in the class to produce their best work.
He encouraged critical thinking and clear writing. I recall submitting a term paper in one of his classes and meeting with him to discuss it. He asked how many drafts had preceded the final paper, and I admitted that my first draft and final paper were identical. He responded gently and in good humor that his finished product often required four drafts and that his first drafts were better than mine.
As excellent teachers at Whitman often do, Bob Fluno opened his home to students, and discussed art, history, and contemporary literature. After we had both read Joseph Heller's Catch-22, I recall a conversation in which Dr. Fluno related the experiences and outlook of Yossarian to his own war-time experiences. He found Heller's treatment of the absurdities of war to be valid observations based on his own personal experiences and used the discussion to provide an understanding of other dimensions of his life.
Dr. Fluno's senior seminar in political science was the capstone for students in the major. We wrote senior theses, which were critiqued by the faculty and our classmates. We all knew that serious work was expected. I knew that a first draft would not be sufficient, and we all wanted to meet Dr. Fluno's expectations of us. Criticisms were unsparing, but fair and constructive. The senior seminar is remembered by all of us with great appreciation.
Many of us continued our friendships with Bob Fluno for the remainder of his life. I think of him often as an exemplary teacher and friend.
By Stephen Ronfeldt, '64
His affirming spirit fills every nook and cranny of Whitman, present and past. He resoundingly greets you on pathways and unabashedly probes into the joy or pain of your heart. He urges you onward in performance, on stage and off, in sports and debates. He counsels insightfully. Around a bowl of apples in his home, he holds lively "cell group" (discussion) meetings each month for 40 years. After graduation, he follows what you do. George Ball resides in the goodness of the heart. He genuinely cares about you, who you are and endeavor to be. He kindled my courage to cope with a girlfriend's death. He has moved countless others beyond limiting fears or cynicism into a richer awareness of themselves and meaning of life.
George Ball, who came to Whitman College in 1960, is serving his 40th year as an active member of the faculty. The Weyerhaeuser Professor of Biblical Literature Emeritus, he currently serves as the Stuart Religious Counselor, teaches as adjunct professor of religion, gives alumni lectures, and otherwise encourages, counsels, and inspires the Whitman community.|
By opening hearts, George Ball takes a direct path into the unfolding of minds. In the classroom, he combines a lawyer's socratic training with brilliance and wonderment. In our first class, he artfully stimulated
a debate on the fundamentals of Christianity no answers, only more questions, paradoxes, and different views. Probing beliefs, demanding rigorous analysis, and encouraging boldness and clarity, he leaves each of us to discover our own spiritual path. Is it Buber's I and Thou relationship? Kierkegaard's leap of faith? Tillich's courage to be? Buddhist compassion? Smith's common foundations of world religions? None or all? Bringing abstract principles into everyday life, his spirited teachings withstand the test of time. Years away, they continuously emerge in our work and homes as if there is another consciousness at play.
George Ball teaches with beautiful imagery the serenity of a duck floating on tumultuous waves, alone on the horizon's vast edge, touching an enormous, deep sea. He lives in that image, calmly engaging in the tumultuous issues of today with an eye on the eternal edge, and a soul that touches into the sea depths of relationships with endless students, young and old. But he does not float or walk on water, nor place himself on a pedestal he zooms on a bicycle, gathers trash around campus for recycling, and, at age 85, continues to teach inspiring classes. From 6 a.m., his boundless energy is at work, serving and enlivening the community. Practicing what he preaches, he is a truly great professor, friend, and mentor in life. Deepest thanks, George Ball, for affirming our hearts, opening our minds, and touching our souls.
By Margie Boulι, '73
When I picture most of the great professors I had at Whitman, I remember them in the classroom, a blackboard behind them, my scribbled notes in front of me.That's not how I remember Jack Freimann.
Following in the footsteps of the great professor Rod Alexander, Jack Freimann guided the evolution of Whitman's theater program for 30 years, from 1962 to his retirement in 1992.|
In my memory, Jack is in the eaves of Harper Joy Theatre, setting lights. He's backstage, painting an ornate stair rail part of his own set design. Or he's sitting cross-legged on the stage with a group of beginning acting students, holding a rough piece of wadded cloth so tenderly you could swear it was a real baby.
For decades Jack Freimann was a great teacher, director, designer, and friend to Whitman theater students. He also was our first, and often our best, audience.
Jack danced along the fine line between authority figure and co-conspirator. We absolutely respected him, and would do anything he asked of us. Impersonate Mae West? The halfback of the football team was happy to oblige. Tear down the entire set at midnight, before the cast party began? We struck the set.
Jack was a theater professional, and he insisted we have respect for theater traditions. There was a right way to behave in the theater: You came on time. You learned your lines. You did not break from your character, no matter what disaster occurred on stage. (I once fell into the orchestra pit in the middle of the Cole Porter song "It's Delovely." My fall was broken by a cello player. I knew what Jack would want me to do: I kept singing.)
As a director and teacher Jack did not dictate, he nudged. He encouraged students to be creative on stage, then reined them in if they went too far. The rigorous rehearsal process, sparked by Jack's sense of humor, always was fun. His was not a reign of terror. That's why so many students even students like me, who majored in other fields wandered into Harper Joy as freshmen and stayed for four years. It didn't matter what hour you went to the theater, Jack was always there, listening, cajoling, suggesting, creating. Since his retirement Jack has gone on to great success in New York. I'm happy for him. It's his turn. For decades at Whitman he lived most of his life for his students. It was his gift to us, and I'll always
G. Thomas Edwards
By Matthew Hiefield, '87
As a high school teacher I have had the opportunity to take students on field trips for various educational activities like speech and debate, Model United Nations, and Computer Modeling competitions. On two such trips, I started talking to two other teachers and found out they went to Whitman as well. Upon further discussion, we found out that we had all taken courses from Tom Edwards and that he was an inspiring factor in our continued study of history. His excitement for the subject and his ability to relate individually to each student were certainly common themes throughout our discussion.
Author of histories of Whitman College and the Northwest, Tom Edwards has taught Whitman students since 1964. He retired in 1998 as William Kirkman Professor of History Emeritus. |
This ability to create intellectual enthusiasm for individual students is a hallmark of a great teacher, and it is certainly a trait of Tom Edwards. His respect for the subject matter inspires students to learn more and to ask better questions, and his respect for students creates an atmosphere in which students are motivated to explore new lines of inquiry.
In my senior year, Dr. Edwards was my thesis adviser. I often received drafts back from him that were bathed in red ink. Although this was a blow to my ego, I knew that his comments were made to sharpen my thinking and writing skills, and so I went back to do more research and rewriting. His enthusiasm for sound research and good history encouraged me to become a better historian, and his thoughtful reading and commenting was another way of saying, "I care about your thinking and analysis."
Today, I sometimes think of Tom while teaching in high school. His intellectual sharpness, enthusiasm, and compassion have made him an excellent role model not only for me, but for many of the hundreds of students he has taught over the years. Thanks, Tom!
By Andrea Dobson, '82
When Kate Bracher joined the Whitman community in the fall of 1967, there were only five fulltime women faculty members. In the sciences, the next tenure-track woman was hired in 1990, nine years after Kate had become Whitman's first female full professor. When required, Kate coped.
Professor of astronomy Kate Bracher revealed the mysteries of the skies to Whitman students from 1967 to 1998. Along the way she introduced them to Renaissance music. |
Over the next 31 years, Kate touched the lives of an incredible number of Whitman students and members of the community. Until the mid-'80s, Kate was the entire astronomy department on the roof three nights a week for labs and enthusiastic about it even in December. The warm boots and the heavy coat always lived behind her office door (habits I've inherited, although I've never asked if she also kept long underwear in her file cabinet!).
During those years over 50 percent of every graduating class would have taken at least one course from Kate, courses where students absorbed current theories of the cosmos mixed with a firm sense of historical context informed by Kate's scholarly interests in historical astronomy. Quite a few of us, of course, took many more, as well as pouring out our troubles while leaning against her door jamb, living upstairs in the rooms she rented to students, and generally trying her immense capacity for patience. The spring of my senior year there were three of us in those upstairs rooms French, theater, astronomy majors. As usual, Kate had attracted an eclectic mix of individuals. Through the class of '93, by the way, seven of Kate's students have gone on to get Ph.D.'s in astronomy.
Many of Whitman's brightest students met Kate in her capacity as secretary-treasurer of Whitman's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. For 25 years Kate was the chapter's heart and soul (and memory and pack-rat and, on rare occasions, gadfly).
Innumerable students also played with Kate in the Renaissance Consort. Here, as in her classes, she always treated students with respect and with high expectations. So what if you have several different instruments in several different keys? Pass them one person to the left, and let's play it again. RenFaire quite simply would not have become RenFaire without Kate.
And if not in music, then students might have had Kate for core; she was one of the original general studies professors and taught for a decade in the Greek track. Or perhaps Kate was simply in a class, auditing a history class or learning Greek or in some other way living a quiet demonstration of Renaissance interests and a willingness to accept new intellectual challenges.
With those interests Kate gave me daffodils and double dactyl verse, "astrophysical accuracy" (getting the right answer within a factor of 2!), and raspberry jam, and the conviction that it is possible to listen carefully, to lecture clearly, and to treat students and colleagues with respect.