Responding to the current pandemic demanded that Wofford’s outstanding faculty step out of their comfort zones, learning new technologies and ways of adapting seminar-style classes and hands-on inquiry-based labs into effective remote learning.
For the nine faculty members who are retiring at the end of the academic year, it is safe to say that teaching remotely was not how they had planned to finish their careers. I am both sad that we were deprived of the opportunity to give them all a proper, celebratory send-off and very proud of their resilience and adaptability this past spring in meeting the challenge of providing a quality remote learning experience for Wofford students. These colleagues have served decades of students well, and I encourage all of our alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends to let them know how much we appreciate them and how much we will miss them. We wish them well!
Dr. Mike Sosulski, provost
Retiring faculty are:
Dr. Terry A. Ferguson ’75
associate professor and senior researcher for the Goodall Environmental Studies Center
Dr. Shawn M. Forbes
professor of finance
John E. Lane ’77
professor and director of the Goodall Environmental Studies Center
Dr. Frank M. Machovec
professor of economics
Dr. Doug Rayner
professor of biology
Dr. Alliston K. Reid ’75
the Reeves Family Professor of Psychology
Dr. Peter L. Schmunk
the Mr. and Mrs. T.R. Garrison Professor of the Humanities/Art History
Christi L. Sellars
senior instructor of music
Dr. Deno P. Trakas
the Laura and Winston Hoy Professor of English
Christi L. Sellars - 26 Years of Service
Christi Sellars, senior instructor of music, considers 2020 her senior year at Wofford. Not because she’s graduating, but because she retired at the end of the semester and she’s had to teach her final semester remotely.
“I very much relate to the senior students, and I’m devastated that I won’t have the opportunity to direct my choirs at our final concerts,” says Sellars, who has been at Wofford for 26 years. “Neither did a talented cast get to perform ‘Cabaret’ that they worked toward all year. Those experiences can’t be replicated.”
Still, Sellars hopes she has made a lasting impression on all of the students she’s taught throughout her tenure at Wofford. “In all of my courses, I’ve tried to relay my love of music. My classes explore many genres in order to develop broader musical repertoire. After graduation, I encourage my students to participate in a church or community choir, a theater group or simply to be a patron of the arts,” she says. “I have received numerous calls and notes letting me know what they’ve done since leaving Wofford. It makes me very proud. I feel like I did my job.”
Sellars came to Wofford in 1994 at the request of then-director of music Dr. Vic Bilanchone, when the instructor directing the Women’s Choir and the Goldtones decided to leave on short notice. “I was delighted to accept the opportunity, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.”
She says one lasting accomplishment of her time at Wofford is the establishment of a music minor. “Our students always have been dedicated, putting many hours into their music studies. It was time to recognize their efforts. It is my hope that the degree will attract many future Terrier musicians to the program.”
Sellars plans to return to campus many times to hear concerts in Leonard Auditorium or watch performances in the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts. “Many of ‘my’ students will still be here for several more years as will many of my wonderful friends. Wofford will forever be an important part of my life, and I am so very thankful for my time here.”
Dr. Terry Ferguson ’75 - 40 Years of Service
Dr. Terry Ferguson ’75, associate professor and senior researcher at the Goodall Environmental Studies Center, isn’t dwelling much on his “legacy” or the impact he’s had on students during his 40 years teaching at Wofford. “My impact and legacy are not mine to decide,” he says.
Instead he has focused on offering critical thinking learning experiences for students, including:
- “Helping students to expand their worldview, both spatially and temporally and to develop a clear understanding of their place in that worldview.
- “Helping students to become aware that we all have nonconscious cultural biases — some beneficial, some detrimental — that we need to become aware of and decide their role in our lives.
- “Helping students to understand that knowledge is problematical. All facts are not immutable and carved in stone. Evidence-based scientific knowledge can change, but is fundamentally different from beliefs, wants and desires.”
Ferguson taught two Interim courses in the late 1970s while still in graduate school, then returned in 1984 as a full-time faculty member, teaching courses in geology, anthropology and environmental studies. He retired at the end of the spring semester.
“I had been a student here from 1971 through 1975, and I knew the strengths and potential of a position at Wofford,” he says. “Also, returning here with a ‘hard-money salary’ was much more appealing than continuing on ‘soft-money funded research,’ which was becoming more and more difficult in the early 1980s.”
Ferguson has continued his research while at Wofford, though, co-authoring one of the top 100 articles in Nature Scientific Reports for 2019. He will continue that research on platinum levels of sediments in the Midlands of South Carolina that supports an extraterrestrial impact event that occurred nearly 13,000 years ago. He also will continue working with several research teams, including one that is studying the cultural and natural landscapes near the Goodall Environmental Studies Center.
“After retirement, I will most certainly return to the Goodall Center and the surrounding area along the Lawson’s Fork near Glendale,” he says. “This has been the location of many learning experiences and fond memories. I will probably return to the new Chandler Center for Environmental Studies to see how the program that John Lane ’77 and I started over a decade ago continues to grow and flourish.”
He also will continue pursuing his lifelong interests in photography, sculpture and family history.
John Lane ’77 - 32 Years of Service
John Lane ’77, professor and director of Wofford’s Goodall Environmental Studies Center at Glendale, S.C., tends to go about his teaching and other work quietly while being right smack in the middle of things.
After more than 32 years of teaching English and environmental studies — which by his calculations means 64 semesters, 896 weeks, 192 different classes, more than 3,800 students and some 40,000 papers to grade — Lane retired after the spring semester. He taught English for about 20 years and environmental studies for 10.
Lane was instrumental in the creation of Wofford’s environmental studies program as well as the creative writing program and minor — both things he considers his legacy.
“I was there from the beginning with the environmental studies program, with much of that work coming out of the water and culture course I taught with Ellen Goldey [former biology professor]. We realized the need for an interdisciplinary program that included the environment,” says Lane, who headed the committee to create the environmental studies program and served as the program’s first director before Dr. Kaye Savage joined the faculty.
“I was in the middle of anything that was done to get students out into nature,” says Lane, who was director of the college’s outdoors program after the retirement of Dr. John Pilley, professor of psychology. “The best teaching I did was from the seat of a kayak.
I wanted to get kids out into the world.”
It wasn’t just out into nature, Lane says, it was “into the world. It broadens their education and gets them out of their heads in a way that a college usually doesn’t — where you usually think of college with classrooms, textbooks and professors standing in front of those classes giving lectures. Getting students out into nature — into the world — was and is a way of deflecting that image and letting them know that there’s a big, wider world out there. A big, complex world outside of the gated periphery of a college campus.”
To that end, Lane has driven the college beyond its physical boundaries, out to the Goodall Center and the 200-acre nature preserve in Glendale and into the Northside neighborhood across from campus. “We need to break down barriers in any way we can,” he says.
“Everything we wanted has happened — two buildings with the Goodall Center and the new Chandler Center for Environmental Studies on campus, a full faculty and resources, and incredible, bright and engaging students,” Lane says. “I couldn’t have even imagined this 10 years ago. It’s remarkable.”
Lane also has had a hand — a big hand — in establishing an atmosphere and programs that allow students to “create something rather than just study it.” That includes creative writing, art, theatre and music. “The creative writing program that Deno Trakas [retiring professor of English] and I created was the first to allow students to do that — to create,” he says. “It’s pretty remarkable that now we have these other programs and minors in which our students are doing that — making something.”
Lane doesn’t plan to “leave” Wofford anytime soon. While he plans to travel and write, after the pandemic passes, he also will be the volunteer manager of the research preserve. “I want to stay connected to Wofford, to nature.”
Dr. Peter Schmunk - 33 Years of Service
Have you ever been “Schmunked”? You’d know it, if you have, because it means you experienced one of Dr. Peter Schmunk’s 23 travel Interims while a student at Wofford.
“I tried to make those experiences as full and intellectually rewarding as possible, with a unifying focus on study and related activities such as opera, hiking and cooking that would be new to many,” says Schmunk, the Mr. and Mrs. T.R. Garrison Professor of Humanities/Art History. “I happened to learn some years ago that students who felt worn out by the full schedule of an Interim I led in Italy described their state of exhaustion as ‘having been Schmunked.’”
Schmunk retired at the end of the semester after 33 years teaching at Wofford.
“In 1987, I responded to a job listing at a time when there were few openings across the country for an art historian — and there still aren’t many,” he says, noting he had hoped to settle in the West, where he and his wife both grew up and where he goes every summer to backpack in the Rocky Mountains. “Having never been as far south as South Carolina, I was intrigued by the prospect of experiencing a different part of the United States. We thought we might be here for three to five years before moving to the West, and now, 33 years have passed.”
In addition to being able to teach “the things I wanted — while also serving the needs of a growing art history curriculum and program,” Schmunk says he especially appreciated the opportunity to travel abroad during Interim. “It really changed my life, enabling me to see things I teach firsthand and to share those experiences with students, but I also came to feel that something of life’s meaning was to be found in the discovery of new places and people, the experience of beauty in diverse and unexpected places and the engagement with the wider world that travel affords.
“As I retire, it is satisfying to see the visual arts housed in splendid new facilities and students served by a robust program and a capable and talented group of faculty,” he adds. “I hope I’ve conveyed to students my love of art, architecture and music and have helped them discover that their own lives might be immeasurably enriched by the experience of art.”
Dr. Doug Rayner - 31 Years of Service
Don’t get confused if you see Dr. Doug Rayner hanging out on Wofford’s campus come this fall. While the professor of biology retired at the end of the fall 2019 semester, he plans to continue spending a lot of time in the places he loves.
“The places I will continue to return to are my lab and the greenhouse,” says Rayner, who taught at Wofford for 31 years after spending 12 years working for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources as the state botanist and inventory coordinator for the Heritage Trust Program. “I have thousands of specimens of all types — plants and animals and lots of live plants that I take care of. Since I returned from Cuba in late January, I’ve been on campus about six days a week.”
Rayner came to Wofford in 1989, leaving a “wonderful job as a field botanist because I wanted to teach. I earned my Ph.D. with the idea of becoming a college professor, and I figured if I didn’t start looking for a teaching job soon it would be too late,” he says, adding that he was only interested in small, private colleges with excellent reputations. Wofford fit the bill.
His fondest memories of students are of those who, “under my guidance, learned how to learn on their own; students who struggled with difficult concepts, but finally got them, such as learning to identify a plant using a difficult dichotomous key; and students who did research with me and the joy on their faces and the confidence they exuded when they presented their finding at a scientific meeting. I will never forget the many close friends many of my students became.
“I think most of my students will remember the importance of hard work, commitment and persistence,” he adds. “The importance of always making a good first impression and the importance of a good sense of humor. If you work as hard as you can, then whatever grade you get is what you get. There is no need to worry if you have done your best, and worry does no good anyway.”
In retirement, Rayner says he will “fish twice a week, visit with the grandchildren at least three times a week, garden daily and continue working at my church on a number of projects, especially the Spartanburg Interfaith Hospitality Network (SPIHN). I will travel out of the country once a year, in country two times a year and take at least three trips in my travel camper.
“Lastly, I will continue as a major supporter of the Nature Conservancy, both in South Carolina and worldwide,” he adds. “I have been a scientific advisor or trustee for all but three years since the Nature Conservancy began in South Carolina in 1979. How can someone not support an organization whose goal is ‘to conserve the lands and waters upon which all life depends’?”
Oh, and Rayner has a few more plans for retirement. “For better or for worse, you will continue to see me regularly, if not intermittently, on the benches in front of Old Main — where I spent many memorable, wonderful lunches with Drs. Jack Seitz, Gerald Thurmond, G.R. Davis, Peter Schmunk and occasional others — and in the biology department and at sporting events.”
Dr. Alliston Reid ’75 - 24 Years of Service
The old adage “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” feels very true for Dr. Alliston Reid ’75, Reeves Family Professor of Psychology at Wofford, who retired this spring after 24 years of teaching at Wofford and 15 more years teaching at other institutions.
“I’ve been doing ‘all work’ for a long time. Now, I need a release and need to learn how to do play,” he says.
Of course, his idea of “play” may seem like just more work for anyone else. After retirement, Reid will continue to do research and writing, even collaborating with former students. “I will still be research-oriented. I have lots of graduate-level experiments to do. … I’m also looking forward to writing more articles for the more ‘popular press,’ such as Scientific American. I plan to visit family and friends in Mexico, Spain and other places — and eat a lot of good Mexican food,” adds Reid, who spent time in both countries while on sabbaticals and teaching in Mexico. “I would like to visit my friends and colleagues in those places, spend time in labs with graduate students who do the same kind of research on the way animals learn skills.”
Reid came to Wofford in 1996 as a full professor and two years later became chair of the department as Dr. John Pilley, Dr. James Seegars and Dr. Donald Scott were retiring. “I had to create a new psychology program with all new faculty,” he says. “In 2004, we were planning to move from Black Science Annex into the Roger Milliken Science Center, and I worked closely with Roger Milliken and Dr. David Wood for two or three years to redesign every room in the new psychology floor.”
He had been a student and friend of Pilley’s, spending time with him kayaking, windsurfing and other outdoors activities, so coming to Wofford was an easy decision even though he had been teaching for 11 years at Eastern Oregon University.
“One thing I wanted to do was make psychology more of a natural science at Wofford than it had been previously,” Reid says. “It seemed that the older faculty no longer enjoyed science labs or trying to publish, so I wanted to change that. One great thing I did with John Pilley and Don Scott while I was a student at Wofford in the 1970s was to do publication-quality research with them, and I used that experience as a model for my teaching in Oregon and Mexico. Here, I made sure that our students did a senior thesis and our lab courses taught real science. I wanted to teach everybody to do hands-on empirical science, and that’s probably the most important thing I’ve done here.”
Reid still is conducting research and co-authoring with students. He and Paige Bolton Swafford ’19, who is applying to graduate school while working as a behavior analyst, just published a paper this summer on comparing whether rats and humans learn behavioral skills in the same way.
“It’s important for students to see their names on published articles — and important for their parents,” he adds. “It opens a lot of doors for the students for graduate school or medical school, and they will be proud of that work for the rest of their lives.”
Publishing with students is his biggest legacy, he says. “I’ve probably published more peerreviewed articles together with students than any other professor at Wofford, with 39 so far and another one coming out soon,” he says. “These students make me proud.”
For Trakas, retirement began following his last Zoom class of the semester with a surprise retirement celebration and gathering with family.
Dr. Deno P. Trakas - 40 Years of Service
Being a college professor was always in Dr. Deno P. Trakas’ blood, and his 40-year career as an English professor at Wofford College is a testament to that.
Trakas, the Laura and Winston Hoy Professor of English and director of the college’s Writing Center, retired at the end of the spring semester — one that has left him disappointed and feeling the loss of important interactions with students because of having to teach remotely because of coronavirus.
“My father was a college professor, so it was always in my DNA,” says Trakas. “But growing up, I wanted to be a doctor or a professional baseball player. Then I switched to tennis. Then I wanted to be Paul Simon or James Taylor. Then I realized that, alas, I didn’t have the talent for any of those things.”
What he did have talent for was writing — talent enough to write a poem in high school that “got me a girlfriend. Well, it made it possible for me to be the #2 boyfriend of the #1 girl in the school. Not perfect, but not bad for me.”
His love of writing led to a successful college career at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he minored in English, Spanish and art. “To graduate, I had to choose one, so I chose Spanish because I’d spent a year in Spain and had all the credits I needed, and I went to grad school in English because my writing finally let me be a #1 boyfriend,” he says.
Trakas started teaching at Wofford in 1980. “I was lucky, just lucky, to see an ad for a job at Wofford in English, with a little Writing Center on the side. All my grandparents were Greek immigrants who settled in Spartanburg, my parents grew up here, my father went to Wofford and the job fit me almost perfectly. I figured my karma had a full tank and was on the right road.”
Trakas says his students “have been the essence, motivation and inspiration of my career. I’ve taught about 5,000, and I’ve liked and respected most all of them, and almost all of them are out in the world fulfilling the mission of Wofford, ‘a commitment to excellence in character, performance, leadership, service to others and lifelong learning.’ They’re teachers, administrators, doctors, dentists, lawyers, ministers, civic leaders, owners of businesses, writers, editors, politicians, husbands, wives, friends. I’d love to have a reunion of all of them. We’d have to wear name tags.”
Life in retirement won’t look much different. “I love Wofford, and although I no longer have my fabulous office, my second home, I’ll probably hang out a lot as long as Dwayne Harris ’86 and the other campus safety officers don’t run me off. I’ll use the library, I’ll have lunch with my friends, I’ll play tennis, I’ll read and write.”
Dr. Frank Machovec - 32 Years of Service
Dr. Frank Machovec, professor of economics, is proud of many things he accomplished during his 32-year teaching career at Wofford, including his two-year chairmanship of the department, but he’s most proud of three things that he says reflect on the impact he’s had on his students and the college through the years.
- Alumni established the Dr. Frank Machovec Endowed Scholarship in December 2019. It will be awarded for the first time in the 2020-21 academic year to a student majoring or intending to major in economics. “Wofford has had a number of other significant financial contributions to the college in my name, but now there’s a scholarship as well,” he says.
- Conrad Heinrich ’19, winner of the 2019 Southern Conference championship in the decathlon and Wofford’s student-athlete of the year, named Machovec as his favorite professor in a feature on the SoCon website, citing his “cause-and-effect” method of teaching and his accessibility to his students.
- Zack Morrow ’16 shared a story of Machovec in the May 2019 Wall Street Journal article, “In Praise of Great Professors; Students reflect on what made their best teachers so special.” Morrow wrote, “For all the talk about the importance of career readiness in education, the best professors are those who challenge their students to wrestle, and wrestle hard, with the undying questions posed by the human condition.”
He also says one of his legacies will be the two books he’s written over the past decade, one of which will be published in 2021.
Machovec, who served a four-year term at the Pentagon as director of a division of 15 intelligence analysts at the end of his 20-year military career, came to Wofford for a “second career, and I never regretted it. I’ve taught a legion of very bright students. I have maintained regular contact with many. … It was extremely satisfying that people who were not economics majors regularly took my courses because they heard what a different kind of teacher I am, both in style and philosophical perspective.”
In the article on the Southern Conference website about Heinrich, Machovec summed up his ideals for teaching:
“My philosophy of life is that, as a professor, my moral responsibility is three-fold: first, to be instrumental in assisting my students to become clear-thinking, articulate, literate, numerate adults; second, to inculcate a love of learning; and third, to inspire a prudent dose of skepticism when encountering that which is delivered as unquestionable holy writ.”