With graduation coming soon, many college seniors have begun to plan for their next chapter in life. However, during this time we might forget another group who is also graduating: the professors. Professors have a natural gift of inspiring, motivating and guiding students to be confident in who they want to be in life. Professors who are retiring or “graduating” have a special place in students’ hearts. This year, there is a special faculty member retiring who has not only been an important person for The Meredith Herald, but also for the English department: Dr. Garry Walton, who has worked at Meredith College for the past 37 years and for a total of 43 years as a professor in academia.
For the past two years, Dr. Walton has been the Herald’s advisor, but his history at Meredith starts long before that. In 1983, Meredith College hired Dr. Walton as an assistant professor. A few years before, from 1977 to 1983, he worked as a graduate instructor and Assistant to the Provost at the University of Virginia. During these years, Dr. Walton has seen many technological advances. As time and technology evolved, he too had to evolve his teaching practices to fit the digital age. He mentioned that one of the major changes he has seen is how “research” in the English field is now likely to mean sitting in front of a screen rather than wandering through the library and squinting at a microfilm. However, he says that one of the beauties of technology is that he is able to see students create and share beautiful work with the rest of the world quickly and easily. One of the things that has stayed the same through the years is the “importance of reading carefully, thinking deeply and writing articulately about whatever interests you,” he says. He also says that every year, his students remind him how important it is to let the students talk and for him to talk less and listen more.
As a professor who is dedicated to serving his students, he also mentions that one of the things that he did not expect was how much teaching would affect his family life. He says that “every good teacher knows it is important to be present with students – but that is also one crucial requirement for being a good parent and a good life partner.” But despite those challenges, his time at “Wonderland” has been filled with great moments. The one that stood out the most to him was on one Friday afternoon. He sets the story with a group of two to four students crowding around him on the floor, discussing an English literature passage that they had read. He remembers thinking, “this is exactly what I hoped my life as a professor might be like. It does not get any better than this.”
He recalls that some of the most important parts of his time at Meredith were the phases that he has seen the English department go through, as well as the personal phases he has experienced during his time here. He says that he left his academic administration job in order to come to Meredith and focus on working as a teacher. However, he says that at Meredith he was able to jump back and forth from one role to another, being both a productive scholar and teacher and still working administratively in some capacities. He loved that variety and the opportunity to do different things at different times while working at Meredith. As for the phases of the department, he says that before he arrived, nearly every department was being led by a tireless, strong, self-sacrificing woman. Then, for a time, almost every department head was male. Now, he says, both the faculty as a whole and the leadership at Meredith do not seem to be gendered in any particular pattern – but continue to be populated with bright, talented, dedicated men and women who serve and inspire our students.
Thank you, Dr. Walton, for serving and dedicating your life to the Meredith community as well as to your students. You have made an impact on many people’s lives and have helped inspire many generations; you will not be forgotten for your dedication. We wish you the best in your next chapter in life. May it be as fulfilling as your time at Meredith has been.
“What’s past is prologue.” - The Tempest by William Shakespeare
"As I think of ending my Meredith career, I remember this line from one of Shakespeare’s last plays, The Tempest: “What’s past is prologue.” The line hints that whatever has come before can serve as preparation for whatever comes next – not to dictate what will happen but to inspire and guide it. I think it is related to what Wordsworth says in his famous short poem, “My heart leaps up”: “The child is father of the man,” meaning that we are shaped by all that has come before, and though we continue to grow and change, we are unlikely to undergo a total transformation. So my hope for the future, both for myself and for Meredith, is that we continue to be what we have been, only more so.” - Dr. Walton By Sofia Gomez, Podcasting Director