. . . that Mondoville’s Student Government Association has named its Professor and Staff member of the year.
The Prof of the Year award goes to my colleague, friend, and frequent reader Tracy Power. Tracy is a history prof here at the college, but he also spends time working as the college archivist, a position in which he mentored the Spawn. He has been an indefatigable booster of her move to grad school and her decision to work in library science and archival work, and I’ve appreciated the chance to see his love for his students. He has done important scholarly work over the course of his career, having written a genuinely important book of Civil War history, but unlike many first-rate scholars, he truly enjoys the classroom. I’ve never cared for the distinction between “real/academic” historical work and “popularizers.” I think a good professor is both aware of the best ideas in his or her field and able to express those ideas in a manner that builds interest and comprehension. Tracy can — and does — do that.
Although Tracy is a colleague in Mondoville’s Humanities Department, I actually see our Staff Member of the Year much more frequently. Retha Hair (known universally on campus as “Miz Retha” in the Southern tradition) is one of the college’s custodians, working in my wing of our academic building on a daily basis. I’m generally the second person in the building, coming into work about 7:15, before my 8 a.m. classes. Retha almost invariably meets me there, and she’ll generally be there when I leave in the afternoons. She labors indefatigably to keep her classrooms and offices clean and comfortable. (I’m afraid that my office contributes much more to the problem than to any solution in that regard, but she has learned to put up with that.)
As the kids dribble in before class, and as they move through the hallways throughout the day, Retha greets them by name, asks them about their work and the people back home, and talks to them about their work in the classroom and their efforts on the playing field — she attends even more basketball games than I do. Likewise, she chats with the faculty, and my morning conversations with her will be something I miss this fall.
Newberry College likes to talk about the personal connections our students make when they’re here. It happens to be the truth, and folks like Tracy and Retha are at the heart of that truth, just as they are at the hearts of the students.
Congratulations to you both on your well earned awards.