Retiring professors leave their marks


Seven distinguished professors from seven separate departments will retire at the end of this semester. The group includes a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award Poetry Prize, a scholar-in-residence in the Office of Soviet Analysis at the CIA and an award-winning actor, director, filmmaker and producer.

Those retiring include American studies professor Arthe Anthony, politics professor Larry Caldwell, theater professor Alan Freeman, chemistry professor Phoebe Dea, music professor Allen Gross, economics professor James Whitney and English and Comparative Literary Studies (ECLS) professor Martha Ronk.

Within the ECLS department, Irma Jay Price Professor of English Martha Ronk teaches Shakespeare, modern poetry and creative writing. She has been teaching Shakespeare since her first days at Occidental as an adjunct professor in 1981.

Ronk has published numerous works and received distinction from the literary community. Her book “Vertigo” was a National Poetry Series selection and her poetry collection “In a Landscape of Having to Repeat” received the PEN USA 2005 poetry award. She has been published in The Chicago Review, The Harvard Review, Shakespeare Quarterly and English Literary Renaissance. This past year, Ronk was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award Poetry Prize for her book, “Transfer of Qualities.”

While reflecting on her time at Occidental, Ronk expressed her desire for a more comprehensive creative writing program.

I really would have liked to have had a fuller program in creative writing, so students could start with an intro class then move onto more advanced classes, but we don’t really have enough faculty or a large enough program,” Ronk said.

Although she is retiring at the end of the year, Ronk will continue to be a presence on campus.

I’m probably going to come
back and teach in the spring next year. I want to keep teaching a course here
and there,” Ronk said. “But I think it’s important for me to think about what other things I’d like to do.”

With her new-found free time, Ronk hopes to see her son and his family more often. She plans to venture into social service, specifically tutoring, and finish a few manuscripts which are currently in production.

Theater professor Alan Freeman, who has also received a number of awards over his career, has his own post-retirement goals.

“I will work. And nap. Hang out with friends and family. I will write and direct and seek more curtains to raise.

Occasionally, I will act. And I hope to develop a stronger spiritual
practice,” Freeman said.

In addition to his many accomplishments in the professional world of theater, Freeman has acted in and directed dozens of productions since coming to Occidental in 1962 as a student.

Oxy offered me a unique career path as an artist in the theater: teaching, acting, directing, producing, writing and later building Keck Theater. I was mentored by Omar Paxson and Howard Swan — first as their student, and later their colleague.I have continued to collaborate with some of the finest colleagues one could choose,” Freeman said.

The career of Cecil H. and Louise Gamble Professor of Political Science Larry Caldwell has also exceeded four decades at Occidental. His areas of expertise are Soviet and post-Soviet foreign and military policies, arms control and U.S. national security policy. He has written several books over the years, including “Soviet and American Attitudes Towards S.A.L.T.” (1971), “Soviet and American Relations: One Half-Decade of Detente” (1976) and “U.S.-Soviet Relations in the 1980s” in collaboration with William Diebold, Jr. (1980). The Larry Caldwell Research Fellowship, which awards $2,000 to the junior politics majorwith the strongest research proposal in national security, comparative politics or international relations, was created in his honor.

Over the years, economics professor James Whitney has focused his studies on international economics, the economics of professional team sports and the economics of higher education. One of his favorite courses to teach was Law and Economics.

I really enjoyed my 32 years at Oxy, and working with students was my favorite part of the job. If I were to keep working, it is still the job I would want most. But I enjoy leisure even more and am ready to work at it full-time,” Whitney said.

Whitney plans to spend much of his retirement traveling.

“My wife, Linda, and I have always enjoyed traveling, and we wanted to retire early enough to still have the energy to actively explore and haul our luggage around for several weeks when we visit foreign countries. My free advice is to not settle down too soon or retire too late, and I am trying to set a good example,” Whitney said.

American studies professor Arthe Anthony’s passions include interdisciplinary examinations of the American South, socio-historical views of 20th Century African-American literature, African-American history and women’s/gender studies.

Music professor Allen Gross teaches conducting, orchestral literature and materials of music. He is the conductor of the Occidental-Caltech Orchestra, which will be departing with its conductor.

To make up for the loss of these esteemed professors, Occidental has hired 10 new tenure or tenure-track professors in Art History and Visual Arts (AHVA), Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA), chemistry, cognitive science, economics, history, mathematics and kinesiology.