Three Wofford faculty members who taught at the college for a combined 70 years retired at the end of the spring semester.
Dr. Charlie Bass, the Dr. and Mrs. Larry H. McCalla Professor of Chemistry; Dr. David Sykes, the McCalla Professor of Computer Science; and Andrew Green, associate professor of finance, all were granted professor emeritus status by the college’s board of trustees.
Bass was doing postdoctoral research at the Cancer Research Institute at Arizona State University when he made an important discovery. He realized he’d rather be teaching.
“I fought it a little,” says Bass. “Postdoc is kind of a halfway house for a chemist. I wasn’t as fond of that. I should have known when I was at Tennessee (where he earned his Ph.D.) because I spent more time on the teaching assistantship than research.”
Bass taught at Wofford for 34 years. His teaching style and sense of humor made him a favorite year after year. A group of former students raised the money to have a new, state-of-the-art lab named in his honor. The lab was dedicated in May.
Bass was recognized locally and nationally over the course of his career. He received the Roger Milliken Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Science at Wofford in 2006, and he has been honored several times as the Faculty Member of the Year by the Panhellenic Council at Wofford and by the Campus Union. He was included in the Princeton Review’s book “The Best 300 Professors” in 2012. In 2013, he was one of 10 faculty recognized nationally with a Kappa Alpha Theta Outstanding Faculty Award.
Teaching was Sykes’ second career, and Wofford was his fourth and final stop. He retired after 21 years.
Before deciding he wanted to teach, Sykes worked as a software engineer for 13 years. His first job after college was with NCR Corp. (previously National Cash Register) in San Diego. After moving to SofTech Inc. a year and a half later, he got to conduct training courses for several clients, including the U.S. Air Force and Bell Laboratories.
But Sykes wanted a change and returned to college. After earning his Ph.D. from Clemson University, he began his teaching career at Middle Tennessee State University. He also taught at Winthrop University and Furman University before coming to Wofford.
Sykes quickly became a fixture in the Wofford community. He enjoyed the campus and the customs. His favorite spot on campus is Leonard Auditorium.
“Being in there brings back lots of memories, including convocations and the Christmas programs we used to bring our kids to,” Sykes says. “I’m a fan of traditions.”
One of those children, Aaron Sykes ’19, majored in computer science at Wofford. Being able to teach his son was one of Sykes’ career highlights. It did, however, cause some confusion.
“We would frequently get each other’s emails,” Sykes says with a laugh.
Teaching also was Green’s second career. He retired after 15 years at Wofford.
Green developed several courses during his time at Wofford, including a “Cases in Finance” seminar for seniors that he started early on and continued through his final semester.
“I tried to make the world of business and finance real to my students. I am constantly teaching with examples from the business world and really from my own experience in the business world,” Green says.
His experience in the business world spanned 25 years – 15 in financial roles at Ryder Truck Rental and 10 more at Denny’s Restaurants, including as CFO. He often illustrated his lessons with examples from his time at Denny’s and took classes on trips to the company’s Spartanburg headquarters.
Green says he’ll miss the relationships with the students and his colleagues.
“The great thing about being here is teaching and mentoring and advising students,” says Green. “You feel like you’re really contributing to someone’s path.”
Green is looking forward to his next phase. He’s just not sure what it will be.
“I have some ideas what that might involve,” says Green. “I’m very interested in the community. I have been very fortunate. I want to do something that revolves around trying to give back at this stage.”
Read full profiles on the three retirees in the upcoming summer issue of Wofford Today.