Retired faculty, staff remembered at ceremony

8:56:29 AM CDT - Friday, September 22, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Some familiar faces, many of whom were instrumental in creating programs and special memories, aren't on the campus anymore. More than 30 faculty and staff who retired in the past year were honored at a ceremony earlier this month, giving the university and their colleagues an opportunity to thank them for their service to WSU.

As part of a printed program that was distributed at the Sept. 8 ceremony, retirees were asked to reflect on their career and their retirement, along with sharing memories.  Here are a few of them. To read the complete program, click on "Retiree reflections."

This year’s retirees included folks like Joyce Cavarozzi, a favorite theater professor who earnestly believed in giving students great educational experiences and in participating in faculty governance. She was a member of Faculty Senate for a number of years, serving as president and on numerous committees.

One of her favorite memories was staging the Greek tragedy "Antigone" at dawn on the front lawn of Wilner Auditorium. She thought maybe 20 people would show up for the early morning show; instead 200 did, all of them able to share in what Cavarozzi calls a thrilling memory: watching Antigone come through the doors of Wilner into the morning sun.

Physics professor David Alexander, a late addition to the retiree list, was instrumental in establishing Lake Afton Public Observatory 25 years ago. The observatory has provided thousands of schoolchildren, WSU students and other adults an opportunity to gaze at the nighttime sky.

Before Alexander developed the venture, which was a unique collaboration among WSU, the Wichita schools and Sedgwick County at the time, WSU astronomy students had been observing the sky at an old Moonwatch site near 13th and Webb, and before that on the roof of McKinley Hall. (The Moonwatch program had been popular nationwide following the launch of Sputnik.) Since 2003, Alexander was overseeing WSU's conversion to a new information system. He's taken on a similar challenge at Idaho State University since retiring from WSU, as ISU converts to an enterprise resource project system, as well.

Philip Schneider, too, left his mark at WSU. Schneider, a writer and English faculty member who started at WSU in 1967, was instrumental in the creative writing program’s growth after its founding in 1973 as one of the fewer than two dozen creative writing programs in the nation. He directed the program for the past five years before he retired. He was known as a tough editor, one that students respected. “It was always worth it to bring him my stories, although I knew it would be a roller coaster ride,” said former student Mary Seitz about Schneider’s practice of sitting down with a student for what could be lengthy editing sessions. "I remember on one occasion he took the pages of my story and threw them around his office to impress me with his dissatisfaction."

John "Bill" Thomson's lasting mark was helping getting a new jazz studies emphasis in music performance added to the School of Music's degree possibilities. After playing piano in Las Vegas casinos and hotels, Thomson returned to his alma mater in 1976 to start training teachers and performers. With free time on his hands now after retiring as the School of Music chair, Thomson plans to play some gigs, both solo and with the Hillside Blues, the faculty jazz combo he helped inaugurate.

Marilyn Turner is leaving WSU with some memories. Turner, a psychology faculty member who focused on memory and aging research, started WSU's Cognitive Research Laboratory, commonly called the memory lab. It's where one can take a battery of tests to measure one's spatial, verbal, short-term and long-term memory. People ages 20 through 94 have been tested in the lab, with many returning for repeat visits, often to gain assurance that their memory hadn’t been declining. "The most important thing was that people could compare their memory with themselves," said Turner. Like Thomson, Turner is planning to fill her retirement with music. She's a member of the Wichita Chorus of Sweet Adelines and one of its quartets.

For Susan Cherches, retired Center for Management Development director, retirement in the greater Phoenix area means "new house, new life, new stuff." She'd made a lot of moves before coming to Wichita with her husband, the late Chris Cherches, who was Wichita’s longtime city manager. But she had settled into WSU's Clinton Hall for the past 17 years, first as a student, then an adjunct professor and then as the CMD's leader, helping establish it as a model professional training center.

While Norma Ewing's career as a cashier at the bookstore included two robberies, one of which she helped foil by leaping over a counter and running the thieves down, she's taking things easier in retirement. Well, just a bit – she’s caring for her less-than-a-year-old granddaughter several times a week and learning to use a new embroidery machine.

One could say psychology professor Gary Greenberg left the university for love. He retired from WSU to move to Chicago with his wife of five years. Greenberg came to WSU from his native New York in the early 1960s at the heeding of a close friend and co-worker.

But he's not taking it easy in retirement. "My idea of retirement is to keep doing as much as I can as a professional." Since moving to his wife's hometown, he's been giving lectures at DePaul and the University of Chicago and is an adjunct professor at Roosevelt University. He’s active in three professional psychology associations, is working on an introductory psychology textbook and is still advising two WSU graduate students.

Greenberg perhaps is best remembered at WSU for taking on tough assignments, some that even caused fellow faculty members to stop speaking to him. He helped convert the University Senate, a body representing faculty and staff, to the Faculty Senate and at the request of President Hughes headed a committee that made some controversial recommendations on governance and administrative issues. He also was active in the American Association of University Professors that led to him “butting heads” with administrators.

W. Robert "Bob" Carper, like Greenberg, also isn't taking it easy after nearly 40 years of chemistry research. This fall, he'll teach a senior lab in physical chemistry in his field of expertise, molecular modeling using NMR spectrometry. (Spectrometers operate on the same principle as an MRI machine.) Having taught nearly every physical chemistry class at one time or another, he said this kind of lab is one he thoroughly enjoys. Carper also will continue his research on the ionic liquid lubricants for the Air Force’s Office of Scientific Research. Carper's reputation as a researcher in pioneering fields helped him land a prestigious appointment to a German university within the past decade.

Janice Holtsclaw didn't butt heads with administrators, but she did buck a trend. When she started as a locksmith at WSU in 1979, not many women were found in the skilled trades. She's actually the only woman to retire from the skilled trades at WSU. Just as important to Holtsclaw, however, was forming friendships with colleagues and in particular international students. She was a longtime Council of University Women member.

Gerald "Skip" Loper Jr. left WSU on an upswing. He'd overseen the Office of Research Administration for the past several years, when WSU’s record of garnering money for research, contracts and service was on the continual climb. His retirement plans include traveling and honing his cooking skills. He'll apparently need the free time to do that, according his wife, Joyce. "He could boil water when we got married," she said. "When I got home one time, he burned the soup."

Dixie Petersen is already moving from nurturing students to cultivating plants in her husband's part-time business in exotic ferns. The Petersens sell about 150 varieties of exotic ferns locally in farmers markets and in Dallas, New Orleans and Miami. After 27 years of K-12 classroom experience, Petersen came to WSU full-time in 1989 committed to helping teachers and prospective teachers. With her expertise in reading curriculum, she has become a leader in the Kansas reading community, serving on standards committees, reading councils and as a ready resource for print and broadcast media stories.

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