Honoring some familiar Baylor faces retiring this spring
The spring semester at Baylor is coming to a close, culminating as it does each year with Commencement — a time when thousands of students take that next step in life. But the end of classes each spring also means a new step for some professors who are embarking on a equally new adventure in life: retirement.
Here are some of the longest-serving professors who are moving on this year — men and women whose faces will be missed, but whose names will not be forgotten:
Dr. Roger Kirk, distinguished professor of psychology and statistics and master teacher, is retiring after 60 years at Baylor — making him the longest-serving faculty member in the university’s history. Over all those years, it’s hard to decide which of his accomplishments are the most impressive: his Master Teacher designation from Baylor, his Distinguished Teaching of Psychology award from the American Psychological Association, his win over pancreatic cancer, that time he went viral for his ballroom dancing skills, or the lasting impressions he’s made on generations of Baylor students.
Jane Abbott-Kirk, associate professor of piano, will join her husband Roger in retirement after 45 years at Baylor. (That’s them in the video below, ballroom dancing in Roger Kirk’s classroom — a hobby the Kirks actively practice, along with teaching tango classes.) Abbott-Kirk specializes in teaching pianists to build healthy techniques that improve their performance and help them prevent and recover from performance injuries. In 1989, Abbott-Kirk was awarded Baylor’s Outstanding Tenured Teacher Award, and in 2004 the Texas Music Teachers Association named her the collegiate Teacher of the Year. Her former students hold prestigious positions at universities, conservatories, opera houses and private teaching venues across the U.S. and abroad.
My professor wanted to surprise her husband for his 89th birthday and this is the purest love I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/IpT5KEaqp9
— Tamara 🇵🇭 (@TamaraJosol) February 22, 2019
Dr. Martha Lou Scott, BS ’71, EdD ’84, associate vice president for student life, just recently announced her coming retirement after 48 years at Baylor. Her leadership potential became apparent while she was still a Baylor undergraduate student. Five months before she earned her undergraduate degree, university administrators made sure Martha Lou would be sticking around campus after graduation, hiring her for a job in the Office of Women’s Residence Halls. Since then, she completed a master’s in public administration from Southwest Texas State (now Texas State) in 1977 and a EdD from Baylor in 1984, along the way working her way up to her current role. Over the past five decades, she has impacted thousands of students — and still hears from many of them, through personal correspondence and social media comments.
She’s the best! Got lucky to have her as one of my professors during my time at Baylor! pic.twitter.com/UvsKCnVEtl
— Timothy Lee (@timhyunyounglee) March 23, 2019
Dr. Rosalie Beck, associate professor of religion, is retiring after 35 years at Baylor. During a time when Southern Baptists were debating whether or not women could teach or have any authority over men, Beck was hired to become the first female faculty member in Baylor’s Department of Religion. Throughout her Baylor years, she maintained the goal of teaching church history to help students understand how their belief systems took shape, to help them know what they believe, and to enable them to understand how their beliefs apply to daily life.
Kathryn “Kay” Mueller, BA ’75, MA ’77, senior lecturer in sociology, is retiring after 41 years at Baylor. Mueller has taught a range of undergraduate courses and currently teaches Introduction to Sociology, Death and Dying, Women in American Society, and Introduction to Gender Studies. She’s known for her “Midnight Madness” office hours, during which she allows students to schedule office hours with up her up until midnight as the last appointment — the longest of which lasted until 3:30 a.m.
Dr. Sara Stone, chair and professor of journalism, public relations and new media, is retiring after 36 years at Baylor. After all her time here, many of the students she taught are now her colleagues. During her time at Baylor, Stone has been honored by groups ranging from the Society of Professional Journalists to the Mortar Board, and she has twice been the recipient of the Rachel Moore Outstanding Professor Award. Stone says her philosophy is simply, “If you’re in education, your goal should be to teach … and turn out a student who can be their very best.”
Elizabeth Vardaman, BA ’65, MA ’80, senior lecturer and associate dean for engaged learning in the College of Arts and Sciences, is retiring after 38 years at Baylor. Through all those years, Vardaman has reveled in the opportunity she gets to help students find themselves at Baylor — particularly in her role as a SPARK faculty mentor, helping students discuss their academic goals, summer plans, thesis ideas, research goals, professional aspirations, or whatever else comes up! “Across the campus, every day, our faculty encounter students who are seeking their own defining passions for their careers and lives,” she wrote in a 2017 Arts & Sciences post. “We help them figure out who they are, their callings, their talents, their purpose. … As an institution, we have always been famous for that. We always will be.”
These aren’t the only Baylor professors retiring this semester — just some of the most well-known. Others with more than 20 years at Baylor include Larry Browning (education, 41 years), Dr. Robert Baldridge (biology, 39 years), Dianna Vitanza (English, 37 years), Carolyn Muska (career center, 34 years), Dr. Ronald Stanke (mathematics, 34 years), Lesley Wilson (law school library, 29 years), Dr. Patricia Pierce (French and Italian, 25 years), and Lai Ling Nan (Truett Seminary, 22 years).
Sic ’em, Baylor faculty!