Retiring faculty reflect on time at college: Four stepping down

Donald Chambers (courtesy of Donald Chambers), Neil McElroy (Courtesy of Kylie Bailin), Curlee Holton (Courtesy of Lafayette Communications) (left to right).

Four faculty members of the college have already announced their impending retirement at the close of this semester. Three agreed to be interviewed by The Lafayette about their time at the college and the changes they have seen throughout their years.

Art and printmaking professor Curlee Holton, who has been at the college for 26 years, highlighted the importance of long-standing faculty members stepping down to make room for younger, less experienced professors.

(Photo courtesy of Curlee Holton)
Art professor Curlee Holton working with students. Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications.

“If we [professors] don’t leave, new young professors never have a chance to get a position like this,” he said. “So I’m excited for the possibility of someone else having a position like this, an opportunity at a place like this. As long as I stay they won’t have [that opportunity] in printmaking and art.”

“So the cycle: some of us don’t want to let go of our position in the cycle. I’m very comfortable with allowing that cycle to continue into change” by letting a new professor take his position, he added.

Holton said that he plans to use his newfound free time to produce art and grow corn, which has been a dream of his since childhood.

“I’ve always wanted to grow corn since I was a kid,” he said. “I think it’s the most beautiful plant. And at the same time it nurses your body, so it’s a great cycle. So I want to grow corn and drop off baskets of corn to my friends unannounced on their doorstep.”

Despite his positive outlook for the future, Holton said he will miss his colleagues and students at Lafayette, but plans to maintain a relationship with the college.

Economics professor and advisor to the investment club Donald Chambers said that he has greatly enjoyed his time with Lafayette students over the past 25 years and has proudly witnessed the investment club progress into an almost entirely student-run endeavor.

(Photo Courtesy of Donald Chambers)
Economics professor Donald Chambers. Photo courtesy of Donald Chambers.

“I think [the investment club] is doing as well if not better than it has ever done before,” he said. “It has really grown in popularity, and I think that a lot of that is because as we’ve let the students take more and more control over the process. They innovated it so well that it’s expanded its popularity.”

When Chambers began as the club’s advisor 25 years ago, the rate at which they could gather information was much slower than it is today, he said.

“[Students today are] just so capable of looking at this advanced amount of information coming at them, and to respond to it appropriately and quickly,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Despite the growth and positivity Chambers has seen with this club, he said he has also observed an increase in intolerance of non-leftist opinions at the college. He called his own opinions more “free-market” and not agreeing with what he sees as the general consensus on campus.

“I think [Lafayette] has dramatically shifted in politically correct, intolerant direction,” he said. “I saw 25 years ago when I came here that there was a lot of freedom of…diverse expression, and I leave a place where it’s very intolerant and there’s little freedom of expression if you don’t agree with the ruling party.”

He declined to bring up any specific instance in which he saw this intolerance, but did say that the problem lied within the faculty and not the students.

Holton, who has been at the college one year more than Chambers, wrote in an email that he disagreed with Chambers’ opinion.

“Lafayette has a history of being a conservative campus and remains so,”and he sees nothing standing in the way of conservatives expressing their views, he wrote.

Neil McElroy, the outgoing dean of libraries at the college retiring at the end of this semester, is happy that the Skillman Library has become a place where students can come together and work regardless of political perspective.

Outgoing dean of libraries Neil McElroy. Photo courtesy of Kylie Bailin.
Dean of libraries Neil McElroy. Photo courtesy of Kylie Bailin.

“Today, with rising attention to campus climate,” he wrote in an email, “it is especially gratifying that we have made Lafayette’s library a place where all Lafayette students can come together in a shared academic enterprise and where each student can feel at home.”

As dean of libraries since 1990, McElroy wrote in an email that he is proud of the honors the library has received under his leadership and will miss the students and colleagues he has worked with over the years.

“In retirement (in Berkeley, California) I will most miss the daily contact with my colleagues in the library and friends in the faculty and administration,” he wrote in email. “But I hope to remain in touch with them, just as I do with many former Lafayette students who were my advisees and became friends after graduation.”

“It has been immensely gratifying to do this with a group of world-class librarians and, together, to have earned the trust of Lafayette’s faculty,” he added. “Most of all, I have been pleased to be associated with a library that is so important to its students.”

About Kathryn Kelly

Kathryn Kelly '19 is the news editor of The Lafayette. She studies government & law and Classics with a minor in economics.

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