Magazine On-line [summer 2012]
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Professors, staff member retire after impressive tenures

Alan Goren

Chemistry professor retiring after 27 years

Chemistry professor Alan Goren is retiring after 27 years at Transylvania. Fall 2012 will be his final term.

Goren arrived on campus in 1985 after a tenure at New England College, where after teaching at its main campus in New Hampshire, he went to a campus in Arundel, England, to chair the engineering program. He met his wife in Arundel and got the opportunity to become dean at the England campus, but decided instead to return to the New Hampshire campus for a year, then found the position at Transylvania.

“At New England I was just teaching general education classes—we didn’t have a major,” he said. “I was happy to come here and teach chemistry majors.”

What he found in Lexington assured him that this was the place he wanted to spend the rest of his education career.

“The people here were very nice, and the students have been challenging,” he said. “They make you work. They can’t be bluffed, and I like that. The administration has expectations of us, and the faculty have expectations with each other that we should be scholarly and involved in our fields.”

That involvement has always defined Goren’s approach to chemistry. After earning his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Delaware, he worked in industry at a polyester manufacturer in North Carolina. While at Transylvania, he took great advantage of his sabbaticals, using them to study at the University of Sussex in England, the University of Washington in Seattle, and his most recent one at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.

“One of the things I’m most thankful for is the three great sabbatical opportunities while I was here,” Goren said. “I’m very appreciative of Transylvania supporting those. To be able to go off and be a student again—that’s just a treat. I got to go to meetings in England and France, meet people all over the world. Research is so stimulating and challenging.”

A close second to his passion for chemistry was his love for Transylvania students. Mathematics professor David Shannon, who had an office next to Goren’s and became close friends with him, said his students felt comfortable sitting in Goren’s office and talking about any number of subjects.

“He enjoyed talking with students about their various interests, and that made him a very popular teacher,” Shannon said. “Students felt they could come talk to him not just about chemistry, but about their interests outside of the classroom. He took very seriously the notion that the faculty needed to be mentors to the students and even to the rest of the faculty.”

Goren, a Massachusetts native, enjoys being able to connect with people over a wide variety of topics, especially if they happen to share his love for the Boston Red Sox. Goren has always been an athlete, growing up playing baseball and developing that into a penchant for cricket while in England. He played on a village team with players from ages 16 to 60 and older.

“It was like the softball leagues around here—everyone thinks they can still play the game,” Goren said. “They play on Sundays during the summer months with other small villages. It’s a friendly game, and there’s always a pint or two at the end.”

Goren’s travels and ability to make friends wherever he ventured gave him an appreciation for people of differing backgrounds and worldviews—a true liberal arts mindset. He noted his time in Seattle, where he noticed there was an Asian American governor, two female senators, and a Jewish mayor, saying, “It’s how the world should be.”

“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “Meeting people around the world, you realize that we’re all the same, and you realize it sitting around having a beer or a coffee.”

Goren plans to go back to Massachusetts to be near his daughter and grandsons. He and his wife also kept her home in England, and they’ll visit there often. He recently took his oldest grandson to his first Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

“It’s my grandsons that are so exciting—the thought of meeting them after school and taking them to their sporting events,” he said. “I have no regrets, but for me it’s time to go. I’ve worked for good people, and it will be hard to leave.”

English professor Tay Fizdale retires

English professor Tay Fizdale retired in May after 33 years (1979-2012) of service on the Transylvania faculty.

Fizdale taught many Shakespeare courses, along with a variety of courses on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers. He was known especially for his film courses that emphasized the medium as a major contemporary art form. He billed the weekly film screenings he organized as the “Film Junkies.”

“Tay introduced the serious study of film at Transylvania,” said Vice President and Dean of the College William F. Pollard. “He was always very careful to make sure students understood that it was not simply watching movies, but was a very rigorous study of film as literature.”

Pollard also noted Fizdale’s devotion to students and his attention to detail in preparing for his classes and analyzing student evaluations.

“Tay was one of the most appreciated and demanding professors we have had in the classroom,” he said. “He cared very much about how students responded to his courses. He spent so much of his effort on very difficult, complex courses, and they became complex because he took the feedback from students so seriously.

“Many students felt he was a mentor to them, in a very honest way, talking with them about what they might do with their English major and whether graduate school would make sense for them.” 

Fizdale holds a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of California–Los Angeles, where he studied under renowned early English literature scholar Earl Miner.

Jim Mills

Mills retires after 28-year tenure as registrar

Registrar Jim Mills retired from Transylvania June 29 after 28 years with the institution.

Mills came to Transylvania in 1984 from Western Kentucky University, where he was assistant registrar. He earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology from WKU, which he joked sometimes came in handy with students who came to his office.

“The part I liked most about this job was working individually with students and working them through whatever problems they may have had—working as an advisor and consoler sometimes,” he said. “But it’s surprising how little acrimony there is. There’s as much being a bearer of good tidings as bad.”

His work as registrar involved managing Transylvania’s curriculum records while helping students fulfill their degree requirements. He oversaw the transition into the computerization of the registrar’s office, and eventually into offering student forms and registration online. He also had faculty status, teaching a psychology course during the summers and serving on faculty committees like the Committee on Admissions and Academic Standards.

“One of the great things about this position is you have contact with everybody at the school—faculty, students, staff,” he said. “It’s easy to get tied up in drop/add periods and deadlines and lose sight of what we’re really here to do. But being in a classroom refreshes the notion of what’s really important, which is an undergraduate liberal arts education. Transylvania is a wonderful school, and we do well what we claim to do well.”

Throughout his time at Transylvania, Mills developed a keen sense of the history of the college, not just in regard to classes and professors, but also the campus itself and events surrounding it.

“If you ever need a Transylvania trivia team, put him and B. J. (Gooch, Special Collections librarian) together, and they’ll win it,” said Michelle Rawlings, who was promoted to registrar from associate registrar. “I don’t know if my brain will ever hold as much knowledge about the campus as his.”

He’s also known around Old Morrison for his quick wit and for his chickens, which he raises for eggs at his downtown Lexington home. According to executive assistant to the president Deana Ison ’95, who was a work-study student in the registrar’s office, he even named his chickens after his student workers. One Halloween saw Mills dressed up as a farmer while Rawlings and administrative support specialist Ashley Coons ’09 dressed as chickens.

Ison spoke about Mills at his retirement luncheon in May, giving an idea of what he meant to her over the years beyond his administrative position. Mills had recommended Ison for an admissions counselor position, one that she didn’t even know had opened.

“His endorsement, and the training that I received working for him, set the stage for everything I have achieved up to this point in my professional life,” she said. “His influence has meant so much to me that to this day, I still cannot bring myself to refer to him as anything other than Mr. Mills. His true legacy at Transylvania is not in the meticulous records that he kept on our students, or the number of diplomas he delivered at commencement. Rather, Jim Mills will forever be remembered for his commitment to students, which was extraordinary.”

Mills took a great interest in the students and remains in touch with several.

“I appreciate all the people I’ve come to know here and have been amazed by the talent that has gone through,” he said. “When I read the alumni publication, somebody I knew as not much more than a child is doing things far beyond what I did. I’m just always amazed. It’s a satisfying thing to see that happen and know you might have had some input in moving somebody along.”

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