Professor of Art Harriett Matthews will relinquish the title of longest-serving member of the current faculty, retiring from classroom teaching after 47 years at Colby. But add the one-year sabbatical leave she’ll have next year, and she becomes the second-longest-serving faculty member in the 200-year history of Colby. Only the “Old Roman,” Professor Julian Taylor, surpassed her 48 years. He taught classics for 63 years, 1868-1931—long enough to be featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Matthews, Jetté Professor of Art David L. Simon, Associate Professor of Spanish Barbara Nelson, and Professor of Psychology Thane Pittman were the four faculty members honored at the faculty dinner May 24 on the occasion of their retirement.
Matthews worked during the administration of three presidents and eight deans of faculty, said Simon, who talked about her at the event. His conclusion: “Presidents outlast deans; sculptors outlast everybody.”
Citing extraordinary sculpture on Colby’s campus, Simon said, “Harriett’s sculptures hold their own with the best of them. Harriett’s dedication to her sculpture is legendary and revelatory. … How Harriett is able to make the ephemeral so substantial, and the substantial so ephemeral, is a real lesson in sculpture’s physical properties.”
Simon credited her seriousness and rigor as a teacher and advisor. “Pity the student who asks Harriett to approve their registration forms without full consultation.”
Simon, also retiring, and introduced at the dinner by James M. Gillespie Professor of Art Michael Marlais, joined the Art Department in 1981 and was named the Ellerton and Edith Jetté Professor two years later. His scholarship focuses on Spanish art and architecture, the pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela, and the cathedral at Jaca, Spain, in particular. He said he taught the introduction to Western art survey course every semester that he was on campus. In 2005 he won the senior class’s Charles Bassett Teaching Award.
Simon said he loves the way his life bridges two worlds, making him feel “at home abroad” and “abroad at home,” [as Anthony Lewis’s columns were named. He was a teacher and administrator in Maine as professor and department and division chair; he was a scholar of medieval and Romanesque art and architecture in Europe, collaborating with Spanish scholars. He taught ancient and medieval art as well as modern and contemporary architecture.
Barbara Kuczun Nelson ’68 taught in high schools and at the University of Maine at Augusta before returning to Colby to teach in 1986. President William D. Adams said that though she taught thousands of Colby students since then, they are a “drop in the bucket” compared to the students of Spanish around the world who use her web pages, “Spanish.language&Culture” at www.colby.edu/~bknelson/SLC/index.php.
The online Spanish instruction exercises on her extensive site had more than 1.1 million hits in the 30 days preceding the dinner alone. And half of the top 25 web search terms that fielded by Colby servers were for her online instructional pages, Adams said. For many years Nelson led Jan Plan Spanish immersion courses to Ecuador. She was promoted to associate professor in 2005.
Thane Pittman was hired by Colby in 2004 to chair the Psychology Department. He had spent most of his career at Gettysburg College, where he was a tenured professor. His research specialty is motivation, Adams said, and he conducts seminars on negotiation.
With Pittman as chair, the Psychology Department hired several new faculty members, revamped its curriculum, and doubled the number of psychology majors. In retirement, “Thane is moving to California to be reunited with his boat,” Adams said.