Tom Berger, the Carter Professor of Mathematics, came to Colby a decade ago as a renowned researcher in the area of group theory. When he left, he had amassed quite a group of grateful colleagues and alumni who came to know him as a fierce advocate for students. "Tom has approached almost every issue here with the same question," said Fernando Gouvêa, Berger's colleague in the Mathematics Department. "How will that affect the students?"
Known by some as the harmonica-playing "beatnik professor" of coffeehouse folk-night jam sessions, Berger also was a band leader of sorts for mathematics students. Gouvêa, at the retirement dinner, recounted anecdotes of alumni who were recipients of Berger's passion for teaching.
There was a student who seemed unable to focus for the duration of Berger's three-hour exams. Finally Berger refused to let the student turn in her exam early. He said, 'Run around the building, get some air, run around some more and then come back and finish your exam,'" Gouvêa said. "She did. She was one of our top majors that year."
Registrar George Coleman, whose trademark handlebar moustache and western ties were familiar to generations of Colby students, retired in June after 40 years as registrar and 43 years at the College.
Coleman, who joined the Geology Department in 1963, was a steadying influence over decades of change. As College Historian Earl Smith summarized, introducing Coleman at a retirement dinner in June, "George saw twelve revisions of the graduation requirements, eleven reexaminations of the Jan Plan, ten renovations of Eustis, nine bacchanalian celebrations on the last day of classes, eight chairs of the board, seven administrative vice presidents, six deans of faculty, five vice presidents of development, four deans of admissions, three presidents, two constitutional conventions, one pond-draining, and a partridge in the librar-ee."
In a career that spanned a time of breathtaking technological strides, Coleman began automation of Colby student records by lugging boxes of cards to the only computer in Waterville"at the Hathaway Shirt factory. He held his position as computers multiplied and shrank, retaining a hands-on approach that once included employing the Binghamton, New York, police to track down a faculty member who had forgotten to turn in his grades.
Acting in community theater productions and singing in local chorales, Coleman balanced his private and Colby life until he finally decided step down. "Actually," he said at the College retirement dinner, "I ran out of reasons not to."
Listen to Earl Smith's recap of George Coleman's Colby career
Click Here (6.2MB, MP3)
Suellen Diaconoff's world grew in her 20 years at Colby. The French professor, who retired this June, had focused on 18th-Century French Literature. "I certainly expected to spend my whole career doing that," she said. But Colby's increasingly global focus, institutional support, and a U.S. Department of Education grant allowed her to shift her focus to women in French-speaking countries in the Caribbean and Africa. "It was a wonderful opportunity to ... get together with colleagues in French and government and history and anthropology and English, as it turned out, and work on a program," she said. One result: the African Studies Program at Colby.
But as her professional pursuits pulled her farther from her home in South China, Maine, she still felt destined to be at Colby. Not long after arriving, Diaconoff, who grew up in Portland, Oregon, learned that she had roots?very deep roots?in her new town. Her great-great-great-grandfather, she said, was one of the founders of China. "It was meant to be."
After 30 years at Colby during which he taught German, chaired the Department of German and Russian, served as director of career services (1982-91), and advised students aspiring to prestigious fellowships and scholarships, Associate Professor James McIntyre retired at the end of the academic year. He was credited for uniting the strange bedfellows of the Russian and German language programs into a consensus-driven, student-centered department.
Associate Professor of Russian Sheila McCarthy, who introduced McIntyre at the faculty-trustee dinner in May, noted that he pioneered the practice of bringing language assistants to Colby, developed a program that sends students to Freiburg, Germany, and kept up his professional interest in language acquisition and German instruction in secondary education. "Jim's devotion to students, and to teaching every one of them every day, make us see the often overlooked power of the small and the everyday, which is the seat of all truly important learning in our lives," McCarthy said.