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Tribute: Celebrating 100 Years of Dr. J. Paul Stauffer

Dr. J. Paul Stauffer, in whose honor the building where the English Department is housed is named, celebrates his 100th birthday this summer. Stauffer graduated from Pacific Union College in 1941 with a B.A. and an M.A. in 1944. He then went on to earn his doctorate from Harvard University in 1952. His college teaching career began at Pacific Union College, from 1942-1964, where he chaired the English Department from 1955-1964. He then moved to Loma Linda University and what is now La Sierra University, where, as Graduate Dean for both campuses, he occasionally taught courses in English from 1964-1978. Stauffer currently lives in Angwin. The building which houses the English Department was named after Stauffer in the 1990s. His teaching legacy continues across many campuses and in the halls of Stauffer Hall.

To express the appreciation so many feel for his mentorship and presence, we are publishing  Delmer Davis’s speech written in honor of Dr. J. Paul Stauffer for the PUC English Department Reunion in 2013.

To English majors at Pacific Union College in the 1950s and early 1960s, Dr. J. Paul Stauffer was the epitome of the well-educated Renaissance man.  As freshmen, we may not have known much, but we did know that Dr. Stauffer had received his doctorate from Harvard, and most of us had at least heard of Harvard. We believed Dr. Stauffer knew everything about writing and literature as well as about music and art. His very presence was awe-inspiring.  His erect carriage, his well-modulated voice, his almost Grecian-statue-like good looks, and his carefully coordinated wardrobe–all bespoke an “Ivy League” sophistication quite remote from our California “laid-back”  realities. We associated some lines from the poem “Richard Cory” (by E. A. Robinson) with Dr. Stauffer:    

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But sill he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

We, of course, did not apply the ironic and tragic ending of the poem to “our leader.”  But we were tragically devastated when Dr. Stauffer contemplated leaving us in, as I remember, 1961 or 1962. Oddly enough, this incident resulted in a real, live student protest, around a couple of  years before the more memorable free speech movement protests on the campus of our better-known rival, the University  of California at Berkeley. These were years of considerable unrest among the faculty at PUC. Some faculty wanted change while the administration and others on the faculty seemed satisfied with the status quo. In the midst of this turmoil, Dr. Stauffer received an invitation to move to Loma Linda University to be graduate dean. What could we English majors do to stop this worst of all fates?  Someone came up with the idea of showing our devastation by making signs, waving placards, and marching on the Stauffer house. We drove out there one winter evening, nervous over our aggressive behavior, concerned that Dr. Stauffer “would not be amused,” yet anxious to show our feelings. We got out of our cars, probably around thirty of us, unfurled banners and signs, and began shouting in unison things like “please don’t go.” He and Mrs. Stauffer came to the door, looked out over this ragtag early ‘60s protest group, managed to contain their embarrassment, and, of course, ever polite, invited us in. Well, Dr. Stauffer didn’t go that year, so our protest may have had some effect. He did take the same call a few years later, however, but he stayed around long enough to oversee my completion of both the B.A. and  M.A. in English at PUC.

In or out of the classroom, I almost never saw Dr. Stauffer’s composure shaken. As a teacher, he was always prepared, and the words flowed seamlessly as he guided us through difficult literary passages and provided background information about the works studied. The Browning course he taught resulted in my continuing to rate Browning as a favorite poet, even though my specialty area is American literature. But perhaps Dr. Stauffer was most memorable in the course Introduction to Western Arts, one of the General Education core courses required of all PUC students at the time. This sophomore-level class, year-long and team-taught, was, I think, largely his invention. I have never met anyone else who could bring together the disciplines of the arts, music, and literature in the way that he could. His divergent interests were given free reign in this course, and it was this single course which changed my cultural habits and interests more than any other class in college. When I close my eyes, I can still picture the more than 100 students in the class seated in the old Irwin Hall auditorium, lights out, slides being flashed on the screen, and Dr. Stauffer’s carefully modulated voice commenting on what we should be seeing in the pictured works of art. And I know, because I later taught with him in a similar course sequence at Loma Linda University, there would be no notes with him at the podium. He had it all figured out ahead of time. How he was able to do this while teaching three or four other classes (the teacher loads in those days were atrocious), chair the English Department, spearhead general education concerns on campus, build most of his own house himself, serve on numerous committees, participate in campus Sabbath Schools, act as father confessor to erratic English majors, and still never seem rushed or agitated, I’ll never know.  

His composure out of class was just as awe-inspiring. In those days, the English Club, [then] known as the Silverado Club, would take occasional field trips. One weekend, we escaped to the Albion campus–the Biological Field Station. In the afternoon, we took to the rowboats in our ragged shirts, torn jeans, and dirty sneakers. Most of us were not experts—there was much careening and splashing and general mayhem! At the height of this confusion in my boat, I looked up to see Dr. Stauffer gracefully rowing his boat by us; he was dressed in slacks, shirt, v-necked sweater and tie, and was rowing expertly, the oars entering the water almost silently, no splashes. Besides getting his Ph.D at Harvard, had he also been on the crew?  In contrast to those in his boat, we students ended up soaking wet!  I think we amused him!

One of the highlights of the Silverado Club one year was an outing to Mt. Saint Helena to relive for a few hours some of the Robert Louis Stevenson experience memorialized in his travel narrative Silverado Squatters–from which, of course, the English Club got its name.  In that book, one chapter, entitled “Sea Fogs,” vividly describes how strangely beautiful Napa Valley becomes when looked down upon on foggy days–an experience one can mirror to some extent at Sunset Point here on Howell Mountain.  Our purpose that day was to drive as far up Mt. Saint Helena as possible. We had received permission (perhaps no longer possible) to travel off the pavement and up the dirt road towards the fire-lookout structure at the top of the mountain.  When well up on the mountain, we parked the cars and gathered on the side of the mountain and listened while Dr. Stauffer read the Stevenson chapter to us. I like to think now that there was some fog in the valley that day–although my memory may well have blown that remembered fog into the images of that long-ago Sunday morning! Regardless, that memory today is almost priceless, the perfect linking of literary and natural beauty through Stevenson’s words and Stauffer’s voice!

I have Dr. Stauffer to thank for my own career as an English teacher. He had faith in me from the first when as a freshman I literally shocked him, I think (for once, his composure may have been broken) by declaring as an English major. He guided me through the English major and master’s degree, advised me to go directly for doctoral study, used his influence twice to hire me  to teach at Loma Linda University, provided university money for me to study one summer at Oxford and travel in Europe, and consented to teach with me in a general education interdisciplinary arts course on the La Sierra campus for several years. And, yes, I was still always  nervous to be the presenter in that class whenever he was there–because, you see, though then a colleague of his and a friend of many years, he was still Dr. Stauffer to me and always will be! 

Transitions in the Department

Musical Chairs:

As is the custom in academic departments, the chair position typically rotates every several years. As of July 1st, Maria Rankin-Brown began a term as chair. Cynthia Westerbeck will continue to teach while also chairing the WASC Committee on campus.

Saying Goodbye:

Article ImageWe say farewell to Janet Borisevich, who has taught English as a Second Language, TESOL courses, Linguistics, and composition since 1991. Janet will be returning to her first love of teaching English as a Second Language, a program that PUC no longer offers. The English Department thanks her for her many years of service. Students have particularly appreciated her love of languages, her enthusiastic sharing of all things Russian, and for always having a hug and a prayer ready.

Saying Hello:

Peter Katz, an alumnus of the PUC English Department, has completed his Ph.D. at Syracuse University this summer. He specializes in the history of reading and publishing, and his teaching at PUC will focus particularly on reading and publishing in digital forms and genres. His dissertation, "Reading Bodies: Associationism, Empathy, and the Ethics of Sensation in Victorian Fiction," brings together the history of reading with the history of science to investigate how 19th-century readers understood physiological responses to reading as ethical acts. Over the next few years, Dr. Katz will work toward the development of classes in both creative and professional digital writing, and provide opportunities for English majors to familiarize themselves with online publishing. He has practiced martial arts for over twenty years, and his time in upstate New York has taught him to love winter sports—though he suspects neither of those skills will be particularly necessary in Angwin.

Alumni Updates

Marissa Aguayo (2013)
Marissa has been working as an administrator at a dental laboratory in Irvine, California. Along with her duties as administrator, she works closely with the marketing department writing copy, press releases, white paper, and writing and editing for the company website and newsletter. Although she loves the consistently sunny weather of Southern California—and spends as much time at the beach as possible—she misses the camaraderie and lively and enlightening discussions she shared at PUC with her fellow English majors and professors.

Alex Blum (2014)
Following her graduation, Alex landed an assistant position at a small law firm in downtown Napa. Long nights of research-paper writing and obsessing over the perfect sentence for her Campus Chronicle articles turned out to be fodder for more coffee-fueled all-nighters; the level of research, writing, and editing expected in the PUC English Department and beyond, helped to sharpen Alex’s critical thinking skills and provided a strong foundation for real-world application. Whether researching case information at the Napa courthouse or preparing client correspondence, the skills she developed in her classes and extracurricular activities at PUC have proven essential in a position that requires clear written and verbal communication with staff, attorneys, and clientele. When she isn’t filing documents and preparing legal forms, Alex spends time enjoying Napa (read: eating), crafting, and snail-mailing.

Kaitlyn Bylard (2013)
After graduating from PUC, Kaitlyn started her MA in History from San Francisco State University. Two years, a couple hundred books, and a three-car accident in front of her on a bridge that made her late to the exit exam, and Kaitlyn is the proud recipient of an M.A. with an emphasis in American history and a minor field in Asian history. Kaitlyn is interning at the Hayward Area Historical Society, where she is the reigning champion (intern) of the museum's Congressman Forney "Pete" Stark Collection. She has designed the filing and recording system for the archive and has enjoyed learning more than she ever thought she would about the process of local politics and the beginnings of the United States' "war on drugs" in the 1970s. When not at the museum, Kaitlyn walks her neighbor's dog, entertains another neighbor's very friendly cat, watches baseball, and is reacquainting herself with all of the fiction she didn't have the time to read in grad school. Currently, Kaitlyn is working on a research paper on the experiences of Chinese and white women who traveled to San Francisco via ship in the years after the Gold Rush, which she hopes to get published this fall. Also in the works for this fall, Kaitlyn will be applying to History Ph.D. programs.

Morgan Vogel Chinnock (2007)
Since completing her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of San Francisco, Morgan continues to teach composition for the English Department (for which we are grateful), adding a calm presence to the frantic joy that is Stauffer Hall. When not teaching, she nurtures her garden and her writing.

Carlyn Ferrari (2006)
Since graduating with her M.A. in literature from San Francisco State University, Carlyn has worked at PUC in the Office of Academic Administration, has taught for the English Department, and at the Teaching and Learning Center. Since leaving PUC’s TLC, where she worked as an academic mentor to students, Carlyn is completing her Ph.D. coursework in African American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she is focusing on diasporic literature and identity. She remembers the department fondly. “It was a place where I was able to build relationships with professors that have lasted well after my time at PUC, and the education I received (particularly in Dr. Marilyn Glaim’s classes) laid the foundation for me to be successful as a graduate student.”

Allison Fox (2001)
Allison graduated from PUC with a B.A. in English (literature) and French. Then in 2004, she earned an M.A. in literature, and in 2006, an M.L.I.S. in Library and Information Science.  Allison has worked as an academic librarian, an archivist, a high school librarian, and in a variety of capacities at a small literary museum.  Since 2012, she has also taught part time for the English department at PUC (yay!), which allows her to channel her desire to help others improve their writing. She reads obsessively, dreams of traveling the world, and shares her home with Ismene and Berlioz, two psychotic rescue cats.

Jeffery Gleaves (2009)
Jeffery describes himself as the Paris Review’s “Swiss Army Knife,” but his official title is Digital Manager. He handles all social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Instagram), for the Review and also assists the web editor with editing and production as well as writing pieces for the blog. He is also part of the marketing team at the Paris Review. He remembers that PUC was a place where he was “allowed to hangout, get really bored and read A LOT! And I had great teachers there… I didn't think I wanted to write, really, until I took a John McDowell class. So, yeah, it fostered a lot of stuff I needed at the time. Plus, the one-on-one (small classrooms and conferences on my papers) was something I REALLY needed.”

Tauva Hellie (2011) 
Since graduating from PUC, Tauva has stayed close to campus splitting her time between working in Academic Administration and (much to her and our delight) teaching English composition to new generations of PUC students. When she’s not developing her course curriculum, spending time with family, catching up on episodes of The Good Wife before season 7 begins in October, or taking care of her 7 cats, geriatric dog, and horse; she’s finishing her thesis project—“In Search of ‘The Connecting Link Between Man and Brute’: Missing-Link Spectacles and Narratives, 1824-1935”, a cross-disciplinary exploration of the popular, rather than the scientific, fascination with the spectacle of the ape in theatrical performances, performative displays of "natural history," literary fiction, and film—to complete a M.A. in English Literature at San Francisco State University in December.

Chris Kam (2010)
After PUC, Chris completed two years of the M.Div. program at La Sierra University. He and his wife then moved to Paradise, Calif., where he has been assisting the youth pastor. He plans to finish his M.Div. before possibly pursuing a career in experimental psychology. “I'm also working on doing theological video essays with an SDA emphasis (an attempt to close the gaps and heal the wounds in the church) while looking into the best option for continuing education,” he says.

Peter Katz (2010)
Please see story on transitions in the Department.

Erika Kim (2010):
After PUC, Erika spent a year teaching English in Guri, South Korea, spent two years, according to Erika, “floundering around in Bakersfield,” then moved to LA where she worked on a juice truck, coffee shop, and in schools all over South LA as a substitute teacher. She is now happily working for the Noun Project as a Content and Customer Specialist, and will be pursuing an MA in speech language pathology at CSULA this fall. She remembers having many moments of deep reflection in the tagged Stauffer Hall restrooms, loved sitting on the comfy couches outside the English professors’ offices, and appreciates the continued and unwavering support, patience, and faith they invested in what she calls, “such a confused and conflicted human.”

Tricia Kurunathan (2013)
Tricia has been the English teacher at Newbury Park Academy since 2013. She will also be teaching Journalism classes this upcoming year and producing their publication: the Gator Gazette. Her goals include starting a literary magazine. She has also instituted a summer reading program for the upperclassmen. She states, “What surprised me the most about teaching is realizing that mentoring them is what students will remember instead of that time I taught them iambic pentameter or how to write a research paper. Although I hope they remember that too. My main goal is, and will always be, to create a safe space for students where they can question, explore, and grow.” In recollecting her time at PUC, Tricia remembers fondly time spent in Maria Rankin-Brown’s office  figuring out “how on earth I was going to graduate in four years with an English major with an emphasis in teaching, a TESOL Certificate, a history minor, and being in the Honors Program.” Juggling those courses was good preparation for busy life as a teacher.

David Loredo (2013)
Since graduating, David has spent time surfing, working in hospitality, and many, many hours studying as he earns a BSN degree that will help keep him supplied with books he hopes to find time to read. As a self-professed Game of Thrones fan, David hopes to graduate soon with his BSN degree so he can finish reading the series.

Megan Milholland-Brooks (2009)
After graduating, Megan got her feet wet teaching in the Napa Valley Unified School District before jumping at the chance to teach English at her own high school alma mater, PUC Preparatory School, where she is about to begin her fifth year. Last summer, together with her coworker, History teacher Heather Denton, Megan had the experience of attending a summer institute at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: Teaching Humanities through the Arts. Megan particularly enjoys the unique opportunities she has to work alongside Heather to create interdisciplinary connections between art, history, and literature for students. Every November, she nearly bursts with pride when another small group of students finishes the grueling work of NaNoWriMo. When not teaching, Megan enjoys getting her three month old baby to smile (a new skill) and reading drafts of her husband Ian's novels.

Emily Morita (2012):
Emily works as a content writer at Sierra Circuits, a technology company. She manages the blog and runs their social channels. She worked previously as an assistant editor at a publishing house that catered to restaurateurs. 

Brandy Radoias (2008)
Shortly after graduating from PUC, Brandy worked at Cengage Publishing as a publishing representative. She then taught English in a variety of Bakersfield high schools, as well as the "prestigious" Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., for two summers before switching to her job as Captioning Editor for Visual Data Media Services, a company that provides captions for television and movies for production companies such as Disney, CBS, and Netflix. Brandy is currently headed to India for two weeks to train employees. She is looking forward to using both her editing and teaching skills in India.

Andrea Rivas (2009)
Andrea works at Central Valley Christian Academy and teaches upper-division English and Spanish. This summer she is becoming AP certified and we will be offering Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition the following school year as the academy phases out an outdated honors program. She will also be taking on the task of advising the yearbook this coming year. As always, the favorite part of her job is her students and colleagues. “They're bright, funny, caring and awesome teenagers. I also have amazing co-workers and a really good principal, which makes the job that much better. Academically, the favorite part of my job is teaching students writing/critical thinking skills, because you really can't do one well without the other.” Prior to working at Central Valley Christian Academy, Andrea taught Spanish at Hinsdale Adventist Academy in Chicago, IL.

Elizabeth Rivera (2008)
Since graduating, Liz has been working and writing in Los Angeles.  She is the director of marketing for InkTip, a company that connects writers and producers, while also pursuing TV writing. She was recently hired to script a web series for After Hours HD.  When not writing, she enjoys taking meandering walks, exploring new coffee shops and swimming. She also makes time to volunteer with WriteGirl and binge watch shows on Netflix with friends (it's technically research, right?). Her favorite memory of Stauffer Hall is laughing with Linda Gill in the back room of the theater and being shushed, and all of the wonderful chats she had while running late to class.

Christiana Robbins (2013)
Christiana will begin her second year at the University of Southern California in the Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication as an Annenberg Fellow, working towards her doctoral degree in Communication. Her favorite parts of the doctoral program include her cohort and the library. “I feel lucky to get to study with people who push me to do better. Annenberg also has a lot of resources at its disposal so I have opportunities for paid international travel and internships at places like Google and Twitter. Oh, and the fact that I can get whatever library book or journal article I want for free. I'm digging the library system,” she says.

Beth Setterland (2002)
Beth says, “Life has treated me well since college.”  Soon after graduating, she became an EMT and started volunteering for Angwin Community Ambulance.  There she met her husband, Bruce.  They have been married for nine years now and have two wonderful children: Madelyn just turned six and Garrett is 3 1/2.  Beth spent the first decade after graduation working in various departments at St. Helena Hospital.  After her youngest was born, she started working at PUC. She is now an assistant registrar in the Records Office.  Her main job is working with transfer students by evaluating their credit and helping them get a good start at PUC. She says, “It is a very rewarding job.  I hope students all love their time here as much as I did!”

Teagan Widmer (2010)
Teagan graduated with her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. Since then, she has been living in the Bay Area, where, while frustrated with her minimum wage job, taught herself how to program. She now leads a team of software engineers at FutureAdvisor, an online investment managing company, where her daily duties involve “being the point person for management when working with my team. I work with product and marketing to develop work items for my team as we develop new features, fix bugs, and improve user experience. I also contribute on the code level, by pushing code to all levels of the FutureAdvisor product. In addition to all of that I am responsible for reviewing most of the code other people are contributing (looking for typos, errors in logic, errors in style, errors in general),” says Teagan.

Paige Worstell (2010)
Paige graduated in 2010 and has been working in hospitality and sales since then. She worked a number of years in the restaurant industry as a floor supervisor but has since moved onto sales. Her current position is the Wine Club Manager at Whitehall Lane Winery in St. Helena. When she is not working, her main hobby is exercising. She does USA barbell lifting and high intensity interval training. She is also happy to be marrying “a wonderful man named Jason who is a farmer” in August 2016. She says, “What I most fondly remember about my time with the English Department at PUC is the exposure to different perspectives. Much like life, in Literature, there is not necessarily one definitive answer or perspective. We each bring to the discussion a different interpretation of text. I carry that lesson over into my daily life. It has taught me to be more open to understanding other people's perspectives on life situations.”

Midori Yoshimura (2012)
Midori is nearing her second year at Stanford University's News Service, where she works as an editorial assistant. She also writes for Crowdfund Insider, covering the latest on crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending. Previously, she interned with Sacramento's NPR affiliate station. She remembers the English Department as an anchor while she interned and zigzagged her way to a career. She says, "The one-on-one feedback from professors, whether methodically written in essay margins ("Cease—and desist—with the dashes!") or interpreted from excitedly waving arms, helped hone my writing and career goals. Sara Kakazu's classes in particular gave me a chance to explore writing styles (poetry?!) and subjects with analytical grace.”

Eliana Zacarias (2014)
Since PUC, Eliana Zacarias has been enjoying spending time with her family at home; especially with her nephews who seem to be growing up too fast. Right now she is working a part-time job and has been trying to utilize her writing skills via freelance opportunities. She is also starting to look into graduate school programs, surprisingly, in communications for next fall. She misses all of the fresh baked goods at the English Department pre-vespers but mostly she misses her English Department family and friends.

Spring Break 2015: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

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Over Spring Break, six students travelled with PUC Theater Director Thorvald Aagaard to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to fulfill part of their English course requirements. In addition to seeing the plays, students were able to attend a backstage tour and speak with Mei Ann Teo, one of the assistant directors of Fingersmith and a former PUC professor, about the process of directing and performing a play.

Students were also able to have dinner and converse with some of the actors from Pericles. Senior Laura Helms stated, “We got to eat with actor Barzin Akhavan. He was in Pericles, which we had seen prior to going to dinner. Barzin told us some interesting facts about the behind-the-scenes of the play along with some hilarious and dramatic anecdotes. I enjoyed getting to meet one of the actors we got to see on stage and learning more about the process of putting on plays at OSF.”

At this point in the season, the resident company is performing Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Pericles, as well as several other modern and contemporary plays, such as Fingersmith, Guys and Dolls, and Long Day’s Journey into Night.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is one of the last and oldest non-profit professional theaters in the country. It is famous for its Shakespearean repertory performances by the resident OSF company. Each season runs from February through early November, though each play has a set allotment of performance times and dates. The English Department visits the Festival biennially.

Tea and Literature in the Arna Bontemps Lounge

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The Arna Bontemps Lounge officially opened for student and faculty use in the English Department in Fall 2014. In Summer of 2014, Cynthia Westerbeck redesigned the English Department’s downstairs conference room by moving the large conference table upstairs and adding donated couches (Thank you, Eric and Loretta Anderson) and installing a flat-screen television. In the Fall, students voted to name it the Arna Bontemps Lounge. It has become a cozy spot to study, watch movies, have club meetings, or to simply socialize with a cup of tea.

Arna Wendell Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana in 1902. The Haitian-American writer attended San Fernando Academy for schooling, then graduated from Pacific Union College in 1923. As a student, he frequently contributed to the student publication Mountain Echo. By the time he graduated, over 30 of his poems had received recognition. His poem “Golgotha is a Mountain,” written while a student at PUC, won the Alexander Pushkin Poetry Prize in 1927. Another of his poems, “Dogwoods at the Spring,” references a clump of dogwoods that used to grow at PUC. “We used to camp out there at night sometimes. I was recalling the place and those occasions a couple of years later when I wrote the poem in New York City,” said Bontemps.

After graduating from PUC, he earned a degree in library science from the University of Chicago. Bontemps then became instrumental in the Harlem Renaissance, his writings tackling the issues central to the movement. His work led him to the acquaintances of other active Renaissance men and women, such as Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes. This friendship with Hughes led to several collaborations, including children’s books and poetry anthologies.

 Bontemps went on to hold positions at many different universities, including Oakwood Junior College, Fisk University and Yale University, and to win multiple awards, including multiple Guggenheim Fellowships and honorary doctorate degrees.

When asked about why he believed Adventist education has such an excellent reputation, Bontemps replied, “It has to do with the sheer reading and study that Adventism demands… I still think that three or four of the P.U.C. teachers had more on the ball than almost any I’ve run into.”

Bontemps died in Nashville, Tennessee in 1973 after a long and productive life. The lounge named in his honor continues the tradition of having students read and appreciate literature.

Faculty Professional Updates

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Thor Aagaard:
Thorvald Aagaard, a Herber Grant recipient for 2015, is spending the summer in England, where he is working at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Aagaard is also teaching an Honors Class in England this summer.



Article ImageDr. Linda Gill:
Linda Gill’s article, “Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey:  Narrative, Empowerment, Gender and Religion,” was published in Anaphora in 2014 by Pennsylvania Literary Press. In the article, she argues that in the novel Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen uses rhetorical strategies including numerous seemingly empty religious signifiers to point to herself as God (or at least a God)—and she does so without ever undermining religion or God the Father (or cultural fathers). 

She also completed a scene studies course at the Berkeley Rep last summer (2014). Gill said, “It was just so much fun to be in a class with a bunch of experienced actors trying to make themselves and each other better and more convincing at the roles we were given to play.”

Gill co-presented a paper with Maria Rankin-Brown entitled  “Maleficent the Maternal,” at the Far West Popular Culture/American Culture Conference in Las Vegas, NV, in February, 2015, in which they argued that Disney’s Maleficent, a reboot of Sleeping Beauty, which would seem to promise viewers a new ideological agenda, ends up reasserting traditional, conservative values of the past through Maleficent’s rediscovery of the  traditional female role she has so long repressed, that of the maternal caretaker.

Gill also continues to serve on the international editorial board of the journal: Literature and Religion.

Article ImageDr. Maria Rankin-Brown
Maria Rankin-Brown co-presented a paper with Linda Gill at the Far West Popular Culture/American Culture Conference in Las Vegas in February, 2015. They argued that Disney’s Maleficent, a reboot of Sleeping Beauty, which would seem to promise viewers a new ideological agenda, ends up reasserting traditional, conservative values of the past through Maleficent’s rediscovery of the  traditional female role she has so long repressed, that of the maternal caretaker.

Rankin-Brown’s often-humorous/sometimes-painful student typos made their way into the Adventist Review (in both online and print versions) in June and November, 2014 (respectively) in an article entitled “’Sin of Adulthood’ and “Ministerial Cramps’ Are All in My Day’s Work.”

She also published an article entitled “Finding our Humanity in Paranormal Literature” in Popular Culture Review in 2013, in which she argued that contemporary paranormal literature reflects the ideals and fears of its readers, particularly fears of losing one’s religion and a fear of  ‘otherness’ through the experiences of paranormal characters in the books.

Rankin-Brown also continues to serve on the international editorial board of the journal: Literature and Religion.

Article ImageDr. Heather Reid
At the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo in May, 2015, Heather Reid presented her paper: “A Prophetic Story of ‘The End’: Interpreting a Collection of Diverse Texts in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 288.”

Reid additionally had a chapter entitled, “Patroness of Orthodoxy: Elizabeth Berkeley, John Walton, and the Middle English Storie of Asneth, A West Midlands Devotional Text,” published in the book Devotional Culture in Late Medieval England and Europe: Diverse Imaginations of Christ’s Life by Brepols in 2015. Reid’s contribution explores the fifteenth-century Middle English translation The Story of Asneth as a West Midland’s devotional text, partially by identifying its previously unknown patroness as Elizabeth Berkeley, first wife of Richard Beauchamp, the 13th Early of Warwick, and by identifying the poet/translator as John Walton, well-known for his 1410 translation of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.  Reid also more closely dates the text, and establishes it as once owned by fifteenth-century book collector, John Shirley.

Reid also spent much of Spring, 2014 on sabbatical (partly funded by a Herber Grant and by donations to the English Department faculty development fund) during which she researched texts at the Huntington Library to add to her most recent and future publications.

Four English Majors Present at International Conferences

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Students Laura Helms, Daniel Moore, and Carlo Péan presented original work at the international Sigma Tau Delta conference March 18-21. The group travelled to the conference in Albuquerque New Mexico with Professor of English Maria Rankin-Brown.

Additionally, Nathan Shuey presented an original academic paper at the International Congress on Medieval Studies May 14-17. Shuey was accompanied Dr. Heather Reid, who also presented a paper at the conference.

Student conference travel was generously funded by PUC faculty and staff donations, online donations from students’ family and friends, alumni, and by a contribution from the Student Association. “Given the level of support we got from donors (both on and off campus) who felt it was a valuable experience for students to attend this conference, I certainly hope that presenting at conferences becomes a regular occurrence for them,” Rankin-Brown expressed. “Having their work shared and discussed and enjoyed by other students and academics is an experience that contributes to personal and professional growth and is just rewarding, overall.”

In addition to the students’ presentations, the PUC representatives at Sigma Tau Delta were recognized at the conference award ceremony and received a commemorative plaque congratulating the PUC Alpha Delta Delta chapter for its 20-year anniversary. Rankin-Brown was one of the founding officers of the PUC chapter. “It’s wonderful to see that students still have an opportunity to have their scholarship and work be recognized and commended in such an important way,” stated Rankin-Brown.

Using the Old to Make Shakespeare New

Emily Mathe and Cambria Wheeler

William Shakespeare isn’t new. Today, the 16th century playwright’s works are some of the most read, published, and performed in the world. Modern audiences are hearing the Bard’s works in a new way, thanks to a band of academicians and actors that includes PUC professor Thorvald Aagaard, ‘00.

What’s making these performances new is actually something as old as Shakespeare himself: Original Pronunciation. Original Pronunciation, or O.P., is a dialect that is as near as possible a reproduction of how words sounded in Shakespeare’s time. “This dialect contains seeds of all of our accents,” explains Aagaard, even though no language today is an exact replica of it.

For three weeks in July 2014, Aagaard, who coordinates PUC’s drama program as well as teaching in the department of English, traveled to London to work with a company to present Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation as part of the Shakespeare’s Globe’s “Read not Dead” series. The group performed a series of pieces in the Wannamaker Playhouse—a new indoor, candle-lit stage near the Globe Theatre that is a close historical reconstruction of Blackfriar’s Theatre, a popular London theater in Shakespeare’s day. One of the main interests of the Shakespeare’s Globe was showcasing the unique sound of O.P. and introducing theatergoers to a new way of performing Shakespeare.

The company, Passion in Practice, is helmed by Ben Crystal, an actor and expert in Original Pronunciation. In addition with his workshops and running his company, Crystal is author of the Shakespeare on Toast and Springboard Shakespeare series of books. Crystal’s aim with Passion in Practice is not only to employ Original Pronunciation for modern audiences, but also to explore how Shakespeare’s acting companies worked and rehearsed. For Aagaard and the group working together in July, that meant a much shorter rehearsal process; instead of the three or more weeks of full-time rehearsal that modern productions require, the group had only a few short days to stage a production of Macbeth.

Serving as Master of Pronunciation for the Passion in Practice company was Crystal’s father, David Crystal, the leading scholar in the area of Original Pronunciation. Ben Crystal invited to join the group at the Wannamaker Playhouse, which opened in January 2014. Aagaard and the group were some of the first to have significant rehearsal time in the brand new stage space, and part of their experience was exploring the limitations and possibilities of how the unusual space could be used. Beyond exploring pronunciation, the team also played with the sightlines in the two-story theater and the unusual opportunities presented by candles on sconces and adjustable chandeliers.

The company produced three shows for the Globe series.  One of the shows was an illustrated lecture by David Crystal on O.P., with actors speaking lines in O.P. to illustrate his points.  “Songs and Sonnets” was a production in which composers were brought in to work with pieces of poetic text.  They closed their residency with the Globe with their production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

“I feel blessed and fortunate to have worked with this company for the last few years,” said Aagaard, about working with the father-son team and the international group of actors that made up the cast.  The Globe Theatre has expressed interest in having the company back again in the future, and Aagaard plans on returning if that opportunity becomes reality.

Aagaard has found ways to incorporate many of the techniques utilized by the Passion in Practice ensemble into PUC drama classes.  One of the most recognizable is the “physical theater” practice of throwing and catching a long stick to learn how to use the space around oneself and move with the other actors.  Students also benefitted from a personal visit from Ben Crystal last April. The actor presented a lecture on Original Pronunciation and a workshop on performing Shakespeare.

Aagaard’s own interest in Shakespeare and theater started young. “I insisted my family watch puppet shows when I was two years old,” he describes.  “I was performing from then on.”  As a PUC student, he performed in the college’s Shakespeare productions, including The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing.  Later, Aagaard acted with the Napa Valley Shakespeare Festival in productions of A Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, and more.  “I’ve been doing Shakespeare constantly since I was a student here at PUC,” he said.  He built up an acting rapport in the Bay Area for several years, worked for the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival doing school tours and summer shows, and worked with the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.

Later, Aagaard moved to London, where he appeared in mainstage roles with British companies and made friends who connected him to Ben Crystal. He also chose to return to the world of academics by pursuing an M.F.A. at the University of Exeter. When the drama position came open at PUC, the timing was right; Aagaard joined the faculty in 2011.

When he’s not participating in workshops or productions, Aagaard now graces the PUC classroom. As part of his work coordinating PUC’s drama program, Aagaard brought Shakespeare performances to PUC, most recently in the 2013 performance of The Tempest, which was imaginatively produced with a cast of four. Aagaard explains that working within these kinds of constraints, like those experienced in the Wannamaker Theatre, turned out to inspire creativity and remarkable engagement with the text, developing it in new ways that people hadn’t seen before.

Aagaard says he really appreciates what he can do with teaching drama to students, though he doesn’t want to put professional performing behind him either. “Performing is a huge satisfaction—it’s a high,” he explains.  “It’s really exciting and satisfying to be a member of a company, to do a show, to feel like you got something right and to feel like you’ve discovered something about the text and about yourself.” 

While his most common audience is now PUC’s students, Aagaard finds satisfaction there as well. “With teaching, you don’t quite get that buzz, but there is something more lasting about the satisfaction you get,” he describes. “It goes a little bit deeper than the performance does.”  

Whether acting in Original Pronunciation or teaching students in Fundamentals of Drama class, Aagaard finds fulfillment helping others understand and embrace theater. He says, “I don’t want to give up performing in any sense, but teaching is not something I want to give up either.”

S.K. (Ben) Benson Passes Away

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We regret to announce that S. Kenneth (Ben) Benson, has passed away. Dr. Benson was professor emeritus of English. He died in an auto accident on Friday, August 14, 2015, at the age of 86. Dr. Benson was a longtime member of the PUC Church family and the Angwin community.

Dr. Benson taught in the department of English. He began working for the college in 1969 and retired in 1996. According to Maria Rankin Brown, chair of the department, “Ben was committed to helping his students improve their writing and grammar. His colleagues remember his great compassion and dedication to the department and to his students. His passing is a loss to the department and the Angwin community." Since retirement, he has volunteered at the PUC Church as piano player in the Primary Division and helped with VBS. Ben is survived by his wife Betty and daughter Lucy.