Section: Features

Retiring professors reflect on time at Kenyon

As the spring semester comes to a close, the Kenyon community bids farewell to six retiring professors, each of whom has contributed significantly to Kenyon’s vibrant academic environment for many years.

While these professors’ backgrounds vary widely, they have all been united by their passions and their fond memories of Kenyon.

Professor of Psychology Allan Fenigstein began his career at Kenyon in 1974, and later worked as a visiting professor in other institutions in various countries, including Iceland, Czechia and England. In his 47 years of working at Kenyon, Professor Fenigstein witnessed the College evolve into what it is today; an institution that emphasizes research and scholarship. Looking back on his time on the Hill, Fenigstein believes that one aspect of Kenyon that has always spurred the best in students is the location in which they grow as intellectuals. Fenigstein deeply values the time he has shared with his students and colleagues, and will miss them dearly.

“[My favorite moments at Kenyon are] the ‘ah hah, I get it!’ moments that students have shared with me, [and] the lifelong friendship of former students, and the collegiality and friendship of colleagues,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Even as Kenyon constructs new buildings and looks to the future, Professor Fenigstein believes “the beauty of the campus remains intact.” He offers his hope that Kenyon students will continue to exercise their creative minds, both in and outside of the classroom.

“[Although] students have improved, they have become better at studying for exams, and much less likely to exercise independent and creative thinking,” Fenigstein cautioned.

During his retirement, Fenigstein hopes to continue his research while spending his newfound time with family and friends.

Writer in Residence P.F. Kluge ’64 is also retiring this year. Kluge’s relationship with Kenyon began as a first-year student in 1960. In 1987, he returned as a professor and the College’s writer in residence, going on to publish Alma Mater in 1993, a work depicting a year at Kenyon.

Kluge hopes that in the years after his retirement, dialogue “between professors and students [will still] be the essence of a Kenyon experience.” Kluge will remain in Gambier during his retirement, where he hopes to continue reading, writing, gardening and walking along the Kokosing River: a continuation of his 60 years of life at Kenyon that began back in 1960.

Like Fenigstein, Kluge voiced concern about the level of students’ intellectual engagement, admitting that while Kenyon offered him a “potentially deep, possibly life-changing connection with his students,” many do not utilize the resources available to them. Kluge wishes that more Kenyon students would take advantage of faculty office hours and the creative and academic benefits they provide.

Having attended a liberal arts college in a town similar to Gambier, Professor of French Mary Jane Cowles knew what Kenyon had in store for her when she first arrived on the Hill in 1989. Now, as she prepares to depart after three decades, Cowles plans to continue her research in retirement, and to travel with her family and improve her oboe skills in her spare time. Whether it includes learning new languages, hiking or getting back into her favorite sports, Cowles’ retirement will be spent the same way she led her professional life: searching for new information.

When looking back on her time at Kenyon, Cowles remarks that some of her favorite moments weren’t always the easiest ones. One of these moments was her time managing tryouts for Assistant Teacher (AT) positions, which she described as “a marathon event.”

“It was fun to see the students’ creativity at work and spend long sessions with colleagues. It was hard work, but we shared a lot of laughter as well,” Cowles recounted.

Cowles also appreciates the time that she invited students of her Myth and Meaning of the French Revolution (FREN 353) class to share a Napoleonic-style meal in her home.

Kenyon’s Department of English will witness a well-known couple retire this year as Professor of English Jim Carson and Associate Professor of English Deborah Laycock prepare to depart from the Hill.

Professor Carson’s favorite memories at Kenyon are those spent working individually with students, whether advising or supervising their honors theses. Originally attracted to Kenyon’s beauty, he hopes that Kenyon becomes “the village and community that we once were.”

Though Professor Carson will not be teaching English in Lentz House this coming fall, he will still often be found cycling in the Kenyon Athletic Center. Professor Carson is also looking forward to spending time with Professor Laycock, and his white German Shepherd, Annie.

While Kenyon professors will come and go over the years, these professors are confident that the Kenyon they knew will continue to be a source of academic growth and an enabler of creative expression for years to come.

Professor of History Bruce Kinzer and Associate Professor of English Deborah Laycock, who are also retiring this year, could not be reached for comment.


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