As anyone who was there will attest, the celebration of Bob Fenstermacher’s extraordinary career at Drew was simply inspiring. Alums came from all over the country to take part in the festivities—young and, well, seasoned, scientists and teachers, businessmen and women, physics majors and a good many who somehow ended up majoring in other fields at Drew. For me, it was a happy reminder that Drew faculty have an incredible impact on our students’ lives. I have myself sometimes been surprised to hear from a former student, reminding me of some lecture or class that had an influence of which I was entirely unaware until, years later, a chance encounter or an unexpected e-mail let me know about it. It was a great joy to see so many former students of Dr. F—every one of them successful in his or her own right–gather to celeb rate the contribution and impact of one of our longest-running “hits” at Drew. Other recent retirements—Phil Peek and Perry Leavell, to name two from my first year at Drew– had exactly the same feel. Drew clearly produces beloved faculty.
The recent celebration led me to reflect on the current crop of faculty and how they, too, are sure to be celebrated in the same fashion in their turn. Drew’s faculty is an unusually accomplished group, excelling both in and out of the classroom. As a group, they exemplify what I believe is best about the life of the mind on a university campus: the simultaneous pursuit of scholarly and pedagogical distinction. If I have noticed anything about the Drew faculty in my two years here, it is that they value scholarship for the impact it can have on students’ lives, just as they value teaching for the opportunity it affords to extend knowledge by developing students’ capacity to think critically and creatively, using the tools of particular disciplines, but learning at the same time to challenge and extend disciplinary limits.
Teaching and scholarship come together in many ways at Drew, as in the work of the Drew Summer Science Institute, which pairs students with faculty in a directed research project. Many of the competitive grants awarded to our science faculty over the past several years help support the Drew Summer Science Institute —Dave McGee’s NSF-funded work on optics, Sara Webb’s Mellon-supported work on environmental science, Roger Knowles research on Alzheimer’s, which draws support from the HHMI grant he administers. When I speak with them, students participating in DSSI research with these and other faculty are always enthusiastic about the opportunity to conduct advanced research with these faculty, and they often report that this research forms the basis for projects they continue either in Honors theses or in graduate work conducted after graduating from Drew.
Teaching and scholarship come together in other ways as well. Over spring break, a half dozen students joined anthropologist Marc Boglioli on an “alternative spring break” trip to West Virginia designed to help students learn about moutaintop removal as a means of mining coal. Boglioli is himself an expert on rural cultures (he just published a book on hunting cultures in Vermont), and students reported that they learned as much about the people in the region as they did about the particularities of mountaintop removal—and they could not say enough about Prof. Boglioli’s ability to help them navigate these cross-cultural encounters.