History faculty look to the future
The WSU history department will be “a whole new place” in four or five years. Six professors/instructors, with something approaching 200 years of service to WSU, are retiring this academic year. And similar “group retirements” are expected in the next two to three years.
“We have phenomenally good people,” said Kathryn Meyer, one of those retiring this year. “But whenever you get new people, they’re so excited. They bring new energy. This will be a whole new place in four to five years.”
But the department will feel the loss, too.
“Losing so many faculty of proven ability and active participation at one time does inevitably strip the department of considerable institutional knowledge and influence,” said John Kicza, history department co-chair.
“We’ve all grown old together,” Meyer said. “It was a yo ung faculty when I arrived."
“I worry about declining public funding for a public university,” he said. Changes for the better, said 2008 retiree Sue Armitage, have been the growth of women’s history and the position of women at WSU since her arrival in 1978. And the two are no doubt connected.
“Without a knowledge of the past, we mess up the future,” she said. “I’m proud that I have played an important role in making western women’s history widely known.”
Her affinity will continue in retirement; Armitage plans to write a book on the history of women in the Pacific Northwest. Edwin Garretson, who joined WSU faculty in 1970, will devote more time to cataloging archives for the Whitman County Historical Society. Ashby and Meyer plan to travel with their spouses.
People who matter are among the reasons she stayed at WSU for her entire career.“The students have kept me going,” she said. “And Pullman is a good place to raise a child. It is a caring community.”
“My department has a strong commitment to teaching and research — a balance that I applaud,” added Ashby.
“WSU was a good nurturing place for the work I wanted to do,” Armitage agreed.
And she encourages it to stay that way. Her advice for WSU as she leaves is to foster the key academic values of generosity, diversity and humanity. Ashby extols the university to not depend on underpaid, underappreciated adjunct appointments and to not diminish the importance of the liberal arts.
On a lighter note, Meyer’s advice for future improvement is “Keep Tony Bennett!”
“I have no worries about the future of the history department,” Swan said. “They hire well.
“I’m quitting at the top of my game.”
Retirement party planned
The WSU community is welcome to a celebration 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, at the Lewis Alumni Centre in honor of the six history faculty officially retiring this academic year.