Professors Fleming and Maisel Retire after Mentoring Generations of Students

By Kardelen Koldas '15
May 22, 2021

James R. Fleming, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), and L. Sandy Maisel, the Goldfarb Family Distinguished Professor of American Government, are retiring from the College following decades of research, teaching, and service on Mayflower Hill. These distinguished teachers and scholars will both receive emeritus status.

Jim Fleming joined Colby in 1988 after completing his doctorate in history at Princeton University. At the time, Colby’s interdisciplinary STS program was just taking root. He’s been a driving force to expand the program, establishing first an STS minor and then a major. He served as the program’s inaugural director as well as the chair of Interdisciplinary Studies.

A photo of Jim Fleming
Jim Fleming, Charles A. Dana Professor of Science, Technology, and Society

Fleming taught courses and produced scholarship about the history of meteorology, climate, technology, and the environment. Throughout his career, he published six books and edited or coedited 20 more. He’s the series coeditor of the book series Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology and the founder and first president of the International Commission on the History of Meteorology. A sought-after scholar, Fleming’s work earned him several awards, including the Eduard Brückner Prize for interdisciplinary climate research and the Sally Hacker and Louis J. Battan book prizes.

“My real highlights involve seeing students flourishing,” said Fleming. He’s found it rewarding to not just teach students but to let them find their voices and passions. He’ll miss the energy of young scholars, he said, and the opportunities to brainstorm ideas and learn from them. “I really do love my students and my colleagues.” 

Additionally, Fleming has been a visiting scholar at other prominent universities, including Columbia University, MIT, and currently at Harvard. Moreover, he was a fellow at renowned institutions such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“I consider myself extremely lucky,” he said. “Sometimes I think, what if there were no jobs in ’88, or I didn’t get the job, or I didn’t get tenure—you think of the path not taken, which would have been much less fulfilling than what I did.”

A farewell celebration was held in Fleming’s honor May 7, and four walnut trees were planted at the entrance to the Perkins Arboretum at his request.

“I hope not to be forgotten,” said Fleming, who will devote his newfound free time “to revise, reissue, and actually rethink some of my books that I’ve written.” While he won’t be teaching, he’ll continue his writing and research at full speed, starting with a critique on Big History, which examines history from the Big Bang to present, and another on the Anthropocene, which looks at the human impact on Earth. To share his previous work with the community, he has given his books, manuscripts, and other materials to the College’s Special Collections.

Sandy Maisel arrived on Mayflower Hill in 1971 to join the Government Department after earning his Ph.D. from Columbia University.

A photo of Sandy Maisel
Sandy Maisel, Goldfarb Family Distinguished Professor of American Government

Maisel is an expert on American politics who has published 20 books and dozens more book chapters and articles over his expansive career. “To me, it was important that I could develop my skills as a scholar in an environment where I could still know my students and be a teacher,” he said. “Colby has given me the opportunity to do that.”

In his five decades on Mayflower Hill, Maisel has seen Colby transform from a small rural college to a global hub of learning. “Those changes have been drastic and all very exciting to be part of it.”

He has contributed to Colby’s growth in many ways himself, including serving as chair of the Social Sciences Division, chair of the Government Department, and director of the Colby in Washington Program. In 2003 he was named founding director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement. “Seeing it through to fruition and being the director of it for its first nine years, that was clearly a very real highlight,” he said.

So was developing close relationships with his colleagues and teaching generations of students, sometimes even children of his former students. Maisel’s contributions were recognized by his former students, who later became friends, in 2011 when they established the Sandy Maisel Goldfarb Center Student Internship and Research Fund in his honor.

In 2019 Maisel and his wife, Patrice Franko, the Grossman Professor of Economics and Global Studies, established the Franko-Maisel Prize for Public Policy. “Colby has given so much to us,” he said, “and we wanted to give back.”

Maisel also spent time as a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and was a visiting professor in numerous well-known institutions around the world, including the University of Melbourne, Harvard, and Stanford. “I can’t imagine having been given the opportunity to do more things than I have in the career that I’ve had,” he said.

This academic year, Maisel was named the Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA, a position he’ll continue in for the next three years. “I have loved Colby sports since the day I got here,” he said. Previously, he was chair of the Athletic Advisory Committee for two decades and was the faculty liaison for the volleyball, softball, and football teams. 

“I’ve been given the chance to do virtually everything at the College,” he said. “It’s been a very full career.”