Our Stories

Macalester Means the World to Us - 50 Year Reunion - June 6-8, 2014

Professors and Classes

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Being in class with Wayne Potraz
Louise Roome Klimoff

I remember the art room, the drawing and painting classes, and in particular Wayne Potraz. With his dedication and enthusiasm and amazing projects, I'm not surprised he is a well-known artist today. Congratulations, Wayne!

"Dear Macalester Senior in 2063"
Stephen Wlosinski

I also remember Dr. Boyd Shafer. He assigned an essay in one of his history courses in Nov., 1963. It was to be entitled, "A Letter to a Macalester Senior in the year 2063". I remember, because I found my essay recently in a box of old papers. Dr. Shafer was generous and supportive with my tentative graspings for meaningful things to say at the age of twenty-one. I still honor the challenge of his compassionate intellect after fifty years.

Learning Greek was foundational
Stephen Wlosinski

Dr. Georgianna Palmer was a Classics professor who taught Greek and Russian. While debating whether to enter theological seminary or pursue the study of medicine, I decided to take a course in Greek. I walked up the creaky stairs to the third floor of Old Main. That first morning, and many other mornings to come, I encountered Prof. Palmer, who was learned, shy, brilliant, engaging and patient. Learning Greek at Mac made a big difference in seminary where there were many other academic challenges.

The cuban missile crisis
Jack Westin

One of my favorite classes at Mac was Political Science as taught by Dr. Mitau. His lectures were more than interesting…they were exciting.

His classes were taught in the same auditorium that the theater used for its productions. As a theater major I would often find myself backstage behind the curtain - or in the cramped storage area above the auditorium - listening to his lectures years after I had taken his Political Science class.

This was especially true during the Cuban Missle Crisis. His lectures were more insightful than anything you could find on television.

Later I was pleased to be a floor manager for his TV show on the local public television station. It constantly amazed me that he was able to discuss issues so fluently and intelligently with no script at all.

One little detail missed on that Greek final
Connie Eckhoff Charles

As a junior, because I intended to go to seminary after college, I took Greek with all the pre-divinity school guys at Mac, learning the ancient language from Georgiana Palmer. I'll never forget taking the final the spring of my senior year, coming to a part that I thought I’d like to come back to after completing the other sections, and turning it in—unfinished. I only realized what I’d done as I was having lunch. So, with total ingenuousness and naiveté, I went back to the classroom on the top floor of Old Main, found Dr. Palmer, and told her I’d made a mistake and handed my test in before I finished it. She allowed as how she would have to discount my grade as she had no way of knowing that I hadn’t consulted resources when I left the room. I don’t remember what my grade was, but it didn’t seem to matter as I’d already been accepted for graduate school.

Now that it's been 50 years…
Patricia Wallace Ingraham

There are so many stories...but one of my favorites is this: Late on a Friday afternoon in Spring Semester, senior year, I was wandering around the Political Science offices in Old Main. As I was leaving, the door to Dr. Dodge's office opened slightly. "Wallace, get in here!", she demanded. I was mortified; my Independent Study paper on Pan-Africansim was long overdue. I was sure that I was really going to get a lecture about being a responsible student. But when I got into her office, she was standing there in a gorgeous long red satin dress. She looked fabulous! But then she turned slightly and it became clear why I was there: the zipper in the back was stuck and she couldn't reach it. I fixed the zipper, zipped her up, and turned to go. "One more thing", she said. "Don't you EVER tell anyone you had to help me get dressed!" Fifty years later, I don't think she'd mind.

One great mentor
Al Kvanli

I had a great mentor and professor in E. J. Camp, then chairman of the Math Department. He was able to secure me a Teaching Assistant position at the Univ of Kansas.

Professor Gustafson at the Grill
Georgia Jacob Zugay

Remember when we would sit at a table fogged in by smoke in the grill and cultural anthropology professor, Mr.Gustafson, would converse with us? How great to have small classes and professors who made themselves available outside of the classroom.

Grappling with Big Ideas
Georgia Jacob Zugay

Remember classes such as ethics where we grappled with, "What is good?", modern

Christian thought and a paper read on, "What was the original sin?" memorizing, memorizing and memorizing for Dr. Walters exams in human physiology and anatomy, powerful convocation and chapel speakers?

How Mitau led me to law
David Ranheim

Professor G. Theodore Mitau literally changed my life! I thought I was headed into the accounting profession, but he encouraged me to think about law school and advised me as I applied for and was accepted to a scholarship program at NYU Law School. Yes, Mitau—powerful testament to the profound, positive influence of a caring professor at a small liberal arts college.

So many other outstanding professors who helped shape my education and my life come to mind. At the risk of leaving others out, I have clear memories of excellent classes with Armajani, Dupre, Adams, Kane, Hill, Dassett, Thompson, Buckwell and Young. Then there is Roger Mosvick, whose speech classes and insistence that I also be in Toastmasters and on the debate team (to my good fortune, my debate partner was Paul Anderson ’65, now retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice) helped prepare me to get involved in the moot court program at NYU and ultimately become a trial lawyer.

Mitau instilled confidence in us all
Cathy Lindsey Brown

How to characterize the force of nature that was G. Theodore Mitau? Many, no doubt, will share memories of him and his influence upon them. I remember him walking over from the Grille, flanked by students still hashing over the conversation begun there, carrying an armful of books and still being able to gesticulate, striding into the auditorium in the old Quonset hut. Entering, he simply increased the volume and the lecture was underway. Up and down the aisles he would go, throwing open windows to keep us alert and pointing randomly at students expecting an answer to the question of the moment. Dozing was not possible in Mitau’s Intro to Poli Sci class. He was dynamic, intelligent, a fierce defender of democracy, and a man who believed in the path he was on. At the end of an intense class, still talking, he would gather his pile of books and walk toward the exit door, stage left, pausing to turn back and say, "remember: always keep your sense of humor!"—this, from a man whose family had died in the Holocaust.

One day, just past mid-semester grades, he summoned me to his office in the third floor of Old Main. There, standing behind his large wooden desk, he invited me to sit down, and he quickly moved to the topic on his mind. I thought he might say the C grade he had given me was a real squeaker and that he had given me a bump for class participation; I expected to be admonished. Instead, he said I was bright and capable and urged me to work harder. C was a respectable grade my first semester, as things were going, so I was surprised that he thought me capable of such improvement. This experience did not turn me into a stellar student, but it affected me in a powerful and permanent way. Me—small me from a small town with a small sense of myself—was important enough that G. Theodore Mitau, a man I held in the highest esteem, took the time to encourage me, personally, and from that point on I began to believe in myself. He helped launch many important and successful politicians and lawyers, but he was a teacher at heart and recognized the promise in every individual. He was a mensch, and he likely prevented me from being a college dropout, something I thanked him for at our 10th reunion.

Macalester serendipity
Phoebe Wood Busch

Unless you majored in history, you probably don’t recall Professor Boyd Shafer. As a visiting professor he offered the required historiography class during my final semester. As editor of the AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, he could cite many examples of problems encountered with historical accuracy and interpretation. What could have been a very dry recitation turned into a fascinating tale of adventures in archival research. Unexpectedly, I loved this class.

Twenty-five years later, as I contemplated pursuing a doctorate in Central European History, my eventual advisor at the University of Denver turned out to be a very close friend of Professor Shafer. They both shared a scholarly interest in nationalism. Shafer, who actually remembered me well (!), wrote to encourage me to undertake this challenge. Based on his remarks I resolved to begin and was awarded a Ph.D. in Comparative History in 1996.

A satisfactory response?
Anita Osborne Cummings

It was a cold, snowy December Saturday morning, and I was to meet Dr. Tom Nee at the music building to have my personal oral final for a music course I was taking from him. The building was locked up, drifts on the walks and stair steps. He made quick arrangements for us to trudge through the snow to use the kitchen of the president's residence next door. (Now, of course, it’s the Alumni House and Music building gone.) Every time I'm there since then, I think of the hardest question he posed for me as we stood leaning against the counters talking. "For you as a violinist, which is harder to play: Bach or Beethoven?" I knew that for me it was Beethoven, but couldn't come up with an answer that satisfied Dr. Nee! Still wondering..…

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