Faculty Retire with Combined 390 Years of Service to Colby

Announcements8 MIN READ

Twelve influential scholars and transformational teachers leave the College having gained as much as they’ve given

By Laura Meader
June 1, 2022

As the academic year ends, Colby bids farewell to senior faculty retiring from classroom teaching. This year, 12 distinguished scholars leave Mayflower Hill having made significant contributions in the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences.

Throughout nearly four centuries of combined service, they’ve also impacted thousands of students’ lives.

“Both collectively and individually, these faculty members have contributed enormously to making Colby the place it is today,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret McFadden.

Professors retiring and receiving emeritus status are Lyn Mikel Brown, professor of education; Anthony Corrado, professor of government; Frank Fekete, professor of biology; Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies; Jonathan Hallstrom, associate professor of music; Walter Hatch, professor of government; Paul Josephson, professor of history; Randy Nelson, Douglas Professor of Economics and Finance; Laurie Osborne, Zacamy Professor of English; Dale Skrien, professor of computer science; David Suchoff, professor of English; and Mark Tappan, professor of education.

These individuals have kept Colby’s academic programs at the leading edges of their respective fields, said McFadden.

“They have been prolific and influential scholars, beloved and transformational teachers, and have worked to make Colby a stronger and more inclusive institution. We will miss their daily engagement with our community, but I hope they will stay connected to us for many years to come.”

For many of these professors, they’ve gained as much as they’ve given.

Teaching at Colby has meant “building strong, lasting relationships with both faculty colleagues and students who are just as interested in learning as I am,” said Osborne, a Shakespearean scholar. Reflecting on her 32 years at the College, her most meaningful moments were the “dawning ‘ah, ha!’ epiphanies that students had when complicated ideas started to come together and make sense.”

For Fekete, a microbiologist trained at large state universities, his most satisfying aspect of teaching involved finding ways to engage non-science students. His course Microorganisms and Society achieved just that, and more. “I learned as much from my humanities and social sciences students as I hope they learned microbiology and public health from me,” he said.

As Fekete steps away after 39 years, he’s proud of his role in training and educating the next generation of microbiologists and medical scientists. Thirty-five research students from his lab have earned doctorates in microbiology, he said, and 12 have earned the dual M.D./Ph.D. degree in medical scientist training programs. “It’s extremely gratifying to know that I had a part in their success.”

Music theorist and composer Hallstrom has focused on instilling in his students an understanding of the intimate connection between the study of music and success as a performer, at any level. “As I often say to my students, you need to study music in order to make it well, and you need to make music in order to understand the significance of what you’re studying.”

He also shared with them the enduring joy of playing together. “Opportunities to make music with my students has been the single-most rewarding aspect of my career,” said Hallstrom, who toured with students in the Colby Jazz Quartet.

After coming to Colby from Boston University, Gilkes grew to appreciate the multidisciplinary conversations she had at Colby and the opportunity to teach topics through an interdisciplinary lens. “There’s a certain flexibility to creatively approach the basic pieces of the liberal arts,” she said. She recalled a question a student asked 20 years ago and how it opened a space to explore the role Muslims played in shaping African-American Christianity during slavery. That one question led to a published paper and a course that became a mainstay in her repertoire.

“I have always said to students, ‘There is no such thing as a stupid question,’” Gilkes said. “I have never retreated from that.”

As these teachers retreat from the classroom and let the future unfold, they hope a few constants remain.

That students will learn from each other just as faculty learn from one another, said Osborne; that teaching will never occur without a human in the classroom, added Fekete; that students will always push back against intolerance, said Hallstrom, and strive to practice compassion; and that professors will not be intimated, Gilkes said, remembering that they’re called to profess.

“We cannot abdicate our professorial role,” Gilkes said. “We are supposed to help people open their minds and think. We’ve got to continue to do that.”

Retiring Faculty

Lyn Mikel Brown, professor of education, studies girls’ social and psychological development as well as youth activism and civic engagement. She cofounded Hardy Girls Healthy Women, a Waterville-based social change nonprofit, and cofounded the SPARK Movement, a national anti-racist gender-justice movement. She’s the author or coauthor of several books, including Powered by Girl: A Field Guide to Supporting Youth Activists. She came to Colby in 1991 after earning an Ed.D. in human development and psychology from Harvard University.

Anthony Corrado, professor of government, began at Colby in 1986 and is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading experts on political finance. He served as a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and as a special advisor to the American Bar Association Committee on Election Law. The author or coauthor of numerous books on campaign finance and elections, he is a frequent commentator on national politics. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from Boston College. 

Frank Fekete, professor of biology, is a microbiologist with specialties in environmental biotechnology and the use of biological organisms for toxic waste clean-up. At Colby since 1983, he investigates the bioremediation of contaminated environmental sites to isolate toxic metal-tolerant strains of bacteria. He has received numerous research grants, including from the National Science Foundation, and published extensively in microbiology journals. He earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from Rutgers University.

Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, is a scholar of African-American culture, religion, and history with a focus on Black women, race, ethnicity, social change, and Gospel music. Her radio show, “The Uncloudy Day,” aired on Colby’s WMHB for decades. An ordained Baptist minister, she’s delivered sermons, lectures, and keynote addresses across the country and has written scores of articles and papers. Gilkes came to Colby in 1987 from Northeastern University, where she earned her Ph.D. in sociology.

Jonathan Hallstrom, associate professor of music, is a composer, conductor, and jazz guitarist initially trained as a violist. He conducted the Colby Symphony Orchestra for nearly 30 years and has conducted orchestras in London, Paris, and the Juilliard School. He’s received grants and fellowships from the Rockefeller, Exxon, and Sloan foundations for his work with computer-generated sound and interactive multimedia. Hallstrom arrived at Colby in 1984 having earned his Ph.D. and M.F.A. from the University of Iowa.

Walter Hatch, professor of government, researches international relations, the politics of East Asia, and United States foreign policy. He arrived at Colby in 2002 and directed the Oak Institute for Human Rights from 2010 to 2018. Fluent in Japanese, he previously taught at the University of Tokyo and was a Tamaki Fellow at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Earlier, Hatch worked as a journalist for several newspapers, including the Seattle Times. He earned his Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Washington.

Paul Josephson, professor of history, is a specialist in the history of 20th-century science and technology and teaches Russian and Soviet history. He’s traveled to Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Norway, Jamaica, and elsewhere to examine large-scale technological systems, race, culture, and environmental history, resulting in more than a dozen books. The National Science Foundation, National Academy of Sciences, and Fulbright Program have awarded him several grants. Josephson came to Colby in 2000 and earned his doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Randy Nelson, Douglas Professor of Economics and Finance, joined Colby’s faculty in 1987 after teaching at the University of Delaware. His expertise lies in microeconomics, industrial organization, and corporate finance. He’s written numerous papers published in top-tier economics journals and won “best article” awards from two of them, Economic Inquiry and Eastern Economic Journal. Nelson earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois. 

Laurie Osborne, Zacamy Professor of English and Zacamy Chair in English, teaches Shakespeare, film theory, literary theory, and adaptation studies. She studies Shakespeare in film, popular culture, and young-adult literature and has written two books on Twelfth Night and published dozens of articles on the bard. She belongs to the Modern Language Association and the Shakespeare Association of America, and she’s received numerous grants and fellowships. At Colby since 1990, her doctorate in English comes from Syracuse University.

Dale Skrien, professor of computer science, has research interests in algorithmic graph theory, object-oriented design, and computer music. He’s also an expert in computer science education. He’s cowritten A Mathematics Sampler: Topics for the Liberal Arts and Java Programming, A Comprehensive Introduction, and he’s authored a computer-simulation package, CPU Sim, available as an open-source product. Skrien came to Colby in 1980 after earning his doctorate from the University of Washington. 

David Suchoff, professor of English, joined Colby’s faculty in 1993 after holding the Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow in the Humanities position in the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He’s written, edited, and translated several books, including Kafka’s Jewish Languages: The Hidden Openness of Tradition 1911-1924. Suchoff earned his doctorate in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley.

Mark Tappan, professor of education, is a developmental and educational psychologist interested in social and personality development, boys’ development, and equity and social justice education. Recent projects include a partnership in rural Maine, Trauma Responsive Equitable Education, that’s responding to the educational challenges facing rural schools and communities, and the Colby Healthy Masculinities Project, which works with Colby students. Tappan has written extensively and become a leading voice on boys’ development. He came to Colby in 1991, and he earned an Ed.D. from Harvard University.