Celebrate Elon's 2010 retirees
Members of the Class of 2010 aren't the only people leaving Elon's campus this month. Several faculty and staff will be leaving Elon for the next chapter of their lives, too. Celebrate the legacies of Jane Romer, George Troxler, Anne Cassebaum, Jim Pace, Jerry Tolley, Frank Harris '65 and Lamar Bland in the following profiles and videos.
Senior Faculty Fellow in Foreign Languages
Romer, a lover of languages, travel and experiencing new things, found plenty to sate her interests when she came to Elon 24 years ago. She has taught French, Spanish, English literature and Elon 101, traveled to foreign countries and taken advantage of several opportunities she never would have had if not for Elon.
“I’ve been very happy and very content here,” Romer says. “I’ve traveled to conferences with students, to Guadalupe, London, Greece and France – It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Romer came to Elon in 1986 from Arizona after her husband, Jim, joined the staff of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Jane Romer had experience teaching part-time and applied for an opening at Elon in the Department of Foreign Languages. The program, like the college at the time, was small, and she worked for the departments of English and communications in addition to foreign languages. She marvels at how different Elon is today.
“On an everyday level, this is a great place to work because if you want something done and you ask for it, it’s like waving a magic wand: voila, it’s done,” she says. “I tell my colleagues around the state about the way things are at Elon, and I think they’re a little bit jealous.”
Romer says her years at Elon have afforded her many memories inside and outside the classroom that she’ll never forget. She shares a few of her favorites on camera; click the first E-Cast link to the right.
She says she’s enjoyed the academic freedom, sense of community and closeness among Elon’s faculty and staff. Because of that, she won’t be leaving Elon completely; she’s looking forward to teaching a Winter Term course in 2011, and she and Jim will continue to make their home in the area. But Romer says she’s also ready for something new.
“When people ask me what I’m going to do, I say, ‘Well, I’m going to wash my car, clean out my closet, maybe do some letter-writing and then we’ll see,’” she says.
Professor Emeritus of History and former Dean of Cultural and Special Programs
Aside from President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46, few individuals can claim they’ve given more than half their life to Elon. Troxler is one of those people.
Troxler stepped down from his position as dean of cultural and special programs last spring after 23 years of service but has stayed on over the past year to write an updated, coffee-table history of Elon. Before becoming dean of cultural and special programs, Troxler was a professor of history, joining Elon’s faculty in 1969. He wanted to teach and was attracted Elon for its resemblance to Guilford College, where he had studied as an undergraduate.
“I decided I didn’t want to go to a big university. I wanted to go to a teaching institution and Elon fit the bill,” he recalls.
Looking back over his time at Elon, Troxler recalls a number of special memories, a few of which he shares on camera; click the second link to the right under E-Cast. He fondly recalls working with Durward Turrentine Stokes, the former Elon history professor who wrote the first comprehensive history of the institution. He also enjoyed watching Elon progress in quality and national renown.
In addition to his dedicated service to Elon, Troxler has devoted his efforts and enthusiasm to the Boy Scouts of America, serving as Cub Master of local Pack 51 since 1975, and becoming the troop’s assistant scoutmaster and district commissioner in 1982. In 2005, he received Elon’s Periclean Award in recognition of his service to scouting.
After he finishes his book, Troxler plans on continuing his lifelong involvement with the Boy Scouts. He’s also looking forward to woodworking, gardening and traveling with his wife, Carole, professor emerita of history at Elon. But he doesn’t plan on staying far from campus.
“I don’t think when you’ve worked somewhere and enjoyed it for as long as I have, that you completely cut those ties,” he says. “I don’t want to leave Elon.”
Senior Faculty Fellow in English
Anne Cassebaum’s reason for moving south 25 years ago was simple: She was tired of the cold.
Cassebaum, a New York native, had not heard much about Elon before moving to North Carolina but relocated because of the climate and the promise of a job. Since then, Cassebaum has been a critical component of Elon’s Department of English, teaching freshman writing, American literature, and courses in the nonviolence and environmental studies. She says she’s enjoyed exploring activism and politics by working with Students for Peace and Justice as well as the Liberal Arts Forum. She’s also enjoyed watching Elon’s student population grow and develop over her tenure.
“You compare today’s students to 1985’s students and it’s an amazing change,” she says.
When asked about what she’ll remember most about her time at Elon, Cassebaum says the list is long.
“Some of my favorite times at Elon were times with my students, especially on trips to the Everglades for a Winter Term course, Canoeing and Literature,” she says.
In retirement, Cassebaum is looking forward to rest, relaxation and new opportunities. She hopes to study the clouds, write and tutor in a local GED program and continue her work as an activist. She also plans to complete a book about the human and natural history of Haw River.
Professor of Religious Studies
After teaching the Old Testament and Hebrew history for nearly 40 years, Pace says his favorite part of the job continues to be the element of surprise.
“Teaching at Elon has given me the opportunity to make a contribution and set some fires in students’ minds about Biblical stories and how they were written,” he says. “I surprise lots of them with how interesting the Bible is.”
In a way, Elon itself has proven a surprise for Pace. He hadn’t heard of Elon when, on the suggestion of a friend, he interviewed and joined the college's faculty in 1973 after graduating from Emory University. While he’s had offers over the years from larger universities, he’s enjoyed the camaraderie that is distinctly Elon.
“Some of my favorite memories were informal faculty discussions in the old faculty lounge in Alamance building,” he recalls. “We’d get together, have bag lunches, eat and have a great time.”
He’s also enjoyed the relationships he’s built with staff from across the university, from maintenance to housekeeping, the Registrar’s Office and the Print Shop.
“These people have meant a lot to me, we couldn’t do anything as a university without them,” Pace says. “They are some of the people I have appreciated the most.”
And Pace also has enjoyed the time he’s spent with students, both in the classroom and in study abroad programs. While at Elon, he’s spent a semester abroad in England with his family and students, and he also has led Winter Term programs to London and Italy.
In retirement, Pace plans to do much of the same – teach and travel. He will join Elon students, parents and alumni on the university’s Middle East Pilgrimage study abroad program this summer. He also says teaching a future Winter Term course at Elon isn’t out of the question. He’s looking forward to speaking engagements, writing and participating in research.
“I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been doing for the past 37 years,” Pace says. “I’m a teacher, and I’ll never stop teaching.”
Director of the Elon Society
In his four decades at Elon, Tolley has worn many hats: Assistant professor. Director of corporate and annual giving. Assistant director of development. Director of the Elon Society.
But “head football coach” might be his favorite title of all.
“I will always enjoy having won two national (football) titles,” says Tolley, whose 1989 and ’81 Fighting Christians squads won back-to-back National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships.
In his five years at the helm, Elon football tallied a 49-11-2 record and won the Carolinas Conference title four times. But after the second title game in 1981, Tolley decided to try making a different impact at Elon – in the college’s development office, where he served until 1986.
“In five years under my leadership, we raised alumni participation from 15 percent to 26 percent, 30 percent, 38 percent and 46 percent,” he says with pride. “We had as good alumni participation in giving as any other place in the state.”
In 1986, Tolley left Elon to become associate vice president of training, community and public affairs at LabCorp. But in 1999, when Elon was looking for someone with a personal connection to Elon football to help fundraise for the forthcoming construction of Rhodes Stadium, they lured Tolley back to the fold, and he stayed on as director of annual giving.
Tolley’s contributions haven't been limited to the confines of campus. A longtime resident of the Town of Elon, Tolley served as a two-term mayor at two separate times and is the longest-serving mayor in the town’s history.
“Elon, for me and my family, was always a very happy place to be,” he says. “I’ve told my wife, I don’t think there was ever a day that I didn’t want to get up and go to work at Elon.”
Tolley and his wife, Joanie, plan to stay in Elon and continue participating in community and university events, especially cheering on the Phoenix football team. He also plans to write one more football drill book – he’s written five already – and to drop in on campus often.
“I’m trying to get less involved in some things,” he says, “but I just love being around here.”
Senior Faculty Fellow in Physics
Frank Harris first came to Elon in 1961 – as a student, not a faculty member.
After graduating from Elon College in 1965, Harris took the advice of his physics professor, Guy Rich, and pursued graduate study at Wake Forest University. When Harris finished his master’s program, Rich had opened yet another door for the young scholar.
“When I finished (at Wake Forest) in 1967, Guy had decided to take a leave of absence from Elon,” Harris recalls. “There was an opening at Elon, and I came to start teaching physics and math.”
Over the next several years, Harris taught at Elon and pursued his Ph.D. at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By the time he’d finished that degree, Harris learned Rich was not returning to teaching.
“That’s why I’ve been at Elon for 43 years,” he says. “I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of problem solving and thinking about great ideas in physics. I look back on the decision to go into teaching at such a young age and I don’t think I could have chosen a better profession.”
Harris says his favorite memories center around his students. He particularly recalls one student from Sweden who impressed him with a high score on his first physics quiz.
“It was clear he had much deeper insight than you would normally expect of a young student,” Harris says. “Soon thereafter, I asked him to consider physics as a major. He not only majored in physics, but triple majored in physics, math and computer science.”
Over the past two years, Harris has participated in a phased retirement, teaching part-time. But he says it will be a challenge to get through the summer without preparing for fall semester for the first time in four decades.
“I fully expect to feel a little unusual around the beginning of September,” he says.
But he does plan to remain in the Burlington area, participating in the life of the university and the Department of Physics.
“I’m especially proud when I look back at all the things that have happened at Elon that I’ve been a part of,” he says. “I’m proud of the way the department has grown and the quality of people we’ve hired. I’m leaving the department in fantastic shape.”
Senior Faculty Fellow in English
When Lamar Bland joined Elon’s faculty in 1967, he remembers a much smaller place.
“The campus was walled – everything related to academic life was inside of a wall,” he says.
But that wall didn’t keep Bland from seeing the many opportunities available to a young faculty member at the college. At a larger, state-run institution where departments may have entrenched reputations, there likely would be limits on what a faculty member could teach, and when. Not so at Elon, he says.
“I’ve enjoyed creating certain courses and carrying them through,” says Bland, who started a film criticism course at Elon in the mid-1970s and, later, a course addressing gender issues in cinema. “Elon enabled me to develop courses that might not fulfill the specific needs of an academic discipline or of a general curriculum but that aid in human development. That’s been a pleasure.”
During his years at Elon, Bland has served as the chair of the Department of Literature, Languages and Communications, a predecessor to the School of Communications and several departments within what is now Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. He created a Winter Term course focusing on Australian Cinema, as well as the popular upper-level general studies seminar Men and Masculinity, which he developed with Anne Bolin, professor of anthropology.
But he, like so many faculty at Elon, recalls his relationships with students most clearly.
“I was the departmental adviser for Debbie Yow (-Bowden ’74),” he says. Yow-Bowden currently serves as director of athletics for the University of Maryland. “I had her for a couple of classes, and she would frequently drop by my office for conversations, just to talk. It’s been a pleasure to watch her continue her development. There have been so many students, but she’s a prime example. She’s an illustration of the wonderful things my profession has allowed me to be a part of.”
A busy start to retirement awaits Bland this summer. He looks forward to supporting his wife, Lisa Fischbeck, in her efforts to establish a parish of the Episcopal Church in Carrboro, N.C., not far from their family home in Durham. He also will be traveling around the region with his 16-year-old daughter, who will be visiting colleges. And he looks forward to continuing the family’s tradition of frequent travel.
By Sarah Beth Costello '11