WSU says goodbye to longtime faculty, staff

3:25:33 PM CDT - Thursday, September 08, 2005

At a ceremony this week, WSU will officially say goodbye and offer well wishes to faculty and staff who retired from the university during the past year.

Several of this year's retirees were longtime fixtures on this campus, such as John Born, who said he had more fun in classes than any other experience at WSU for the four decades he taught history here, and Capt. John Davis, who during his 36-year stint on the police force dealt with streakers and witnessed a co-worker's feet literally start smoking during traffic detail.

Some had a hand in shaping programs. Today's innovative Elliott School of Communication exists because of a vision Vernon Keel had in 1989 of creating a seamless, integrated communication school. He also helped start the statewide Kansas Sunshine Coalition that works for open government and freedom of information.

For 30 years, Patrick Kehoe was the sole faculty member in the classical languages. He came to teach Latin but restarted WSU's defunct Greek program, as well. With his retirement, the classical languages program future is unclear.

The Marcussen Organ is considered one of WSU's crown jewels. Organ professor Robert Town played a key role in its acquisition and the building of Wiedemann Hall to house the European-made pipe organ. Along the way, he's turned out top-notch, award-winning organists.

Ellie Skokan spent more than two decades running the undergraduate labs in biological sciences and advising all of the program's undergraduate students. Phillip May helped WSU become a cutting-edge business school in Kansas when he introduced computer applications in the accounting curriculum in the mid-'70s. Thirteen years ago, Eileen Hawkins, a nurse practitioner in Kingman, Kan., was asked to coordinate WSU's new family nurse practitioner program. It's a program that now is full every year, with a waiting list.

As they leave WSU, many retirees already have plans for their future.

Longtime physics assistant professor Don Foster plans to continue volunteering with AARP Tax-Aide, helping at area attractions, and brewing beer.

Retired police Capt. Bruce Johnson will continue helping in Boeing's restoration of the B-29 "Doc," an activity he started five years ago.

Jim Pernice, who retired as an information technology technician, doesn't plan to quit tinkering with technology and machines. From restoring his 1974 Corvette to volunteering at the Kansas Aviation Museum restoring old aircraft, he's putting his knowledge and patience to work.

Self-proclaimed "computer freak" Richard Pratt has been digitizing old family photos, movies and conversations since retiring as a senior administrative assistant from the mathematics department.

Darryl Neighbor, who while at WSU helped young students carve a place at WSU through the Talent Search/Project Discovery program, plans to pursue his hobby of woodcarving.

Rebecca Tucker, who has been singing the praises of math while an instructor at WSU, will perform in a Las Vegas competition next year as part of the Sweet Adelines from Wichita.

Retired power plant operator Julian Triana is hoping to see his beloved Green Bay Packers play at Lambeau Field and catch some spring training baseball games in Florida. Don and Ellie Skokan plan some outdoor activities, too: biking, hiking and camping.

While a number of retirees will be back in the classroom temporarily, as their departments deal with vacant faculty positions or search for their replacements, Jharna Chaudhuri left WSU to be a full-time professor and chair of Texas Tech's largest engineering program, in mechanical engineering.

A number of retirees reflected on their time at WSU and their plans for the future as part of a program for this week's invitation-only ceremony honoring and recognizing their service to the university. To read their stories, click on "Retiree reflections" at http://www.wichita.edu/insidewsu.

- Compiled by Amy Geiszler-Jones

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