What's it like working at your alma mater? What are the pros and cons?
I’d say the pros are being able to relate to the students a little better because I’m more familiar with some of the non-academic places in which they spend their time—the dorms, study spaces, fields, performance spaces, and I can tell them some of what it was like in the olden days. It’s nice walking around campus and remembering my time as a student, but it has been 40 years since I first stepped on campus, so a lot has changed—mostly for the better! When I first started it was a bit intimidating working with some of my old professors, though many had retired in the six years that I had been away.
How has your work in the engineering program changed over the years?
I started with two labs, about 35 computers, and a few software titles used by a handful of faculty and students. We now have 300-plus computers and over 30 applications used by everyone.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Helping students and faculty do amazing things with computers. Working with my colleagues in ITS to solve thorny, complicated problems to make software work.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work?
The weeks during and after spring break were very busy getting everyone set up for remote teaching and learning. Luckily most of what had to be done I could do from my home computers.
What's been the most difficult part of it?
Because many engineering software applications are ones that can’t be run on a typical student laptop, or have licensing rules that require they run on the campus network, we had to quickly set up remote access to the computers in the labs so that students could continue their work. About 40 computers in Acopian were being accessed from all over the country.
What are you doing to keep your sanity while working remotely?
I walk about three miles of College Hill with two friends every morning, rain or shine. It’s crucial for my physical and mental well-being.
What unexpected positives have you seen during this time?
I’m amazed at how well most faculty and students adapted to this new reality and what they were able to do, especially the capstone projects the senior engineering majors completed. Personally, I enjoy many aspects of working from home, though I miss seeing people in person.
What's a funny story from your time at Lafayette?
A large sinkhole opened up on McCartney Street outside my Gates Hall window over the course of a day in 1983. Many of us had to move out while temporary supports were installed so the building didn’t collapse! Luckily I had three friends living in a quad at the other (safe) end of the building, so I didn’t have to go far.
What makes Lafayette special to you?
I picked Lafayette as a student because it was a place where, although I was studying a technical subject (mechanical engineering), there were so many other opportunities to learn and experience other things. I was in choir, I tried intramural field hockey and crew (both epic fails, but I tried!), loved courses in anthropology, history, literature, and had friends from all over the world. And as part of this community, I continue to interact with the most fascinating people—students, faculty, staff. If you’ve never come to the Clay Ketcham room in Marquis for lunch and sat at the non-reservation table, I recommend it. You never know whom you’ll meet and what they’ll be talking about!
What's one area where you'd like to see the College improve?
I’d like to see them address the pay disparity between the highest-paid and lowest-paid members of our community, especially our amazing, hard-working administrative assistants, admissions staff, and adjunct professors.
What musical instrument/s do you play?
I play a lot of things badly—autoharp, pennywhistle, ukulele, mandolin, piano, djembe. Mostly by myself in my living room, but occasionally with groups of friends. The djembe I play in a drum circle with fellow Village on College Hill people, which is led by Lafayette Professor Larry Stockton. I’ve also sung in the College Hill Presbyterian Church choir for 29 years, led by my former Lafayette College choir director Jean Anne Shafferman.
What other interests do you have outside work?
I’m the clerk of session for my church, and I’m on the board of the Village on College Hill, a group of 50-plus-year-old College Hill residents who would like to age in place in their homes. We provide volunteer services, have social activities, organize the Summer Cinema series in Buck Hall. Dave Hogenboom, emeritus professor of physics and one of the four founding members, asked if I could lend some technical expertise to help them get set up four years ago, and I’ve found it really rewarding. I’m also part of the group that has organized the College Hill Porchfest for the past two years. We connect local musicians with homeowners on College Hill who have great porches and have an afternoon in September with great music all over the Hill. We’re trying to figure out what it might look like to have one again this fall.
What did I miss about you?
I like to make wooden mechanical models out of kits. My latest one is a working hurdy gurdy. Also I foster kittens—Brent Utter in mechanical engineering and Kristen Sanford in civil and environmental engineering have both adopted my fosters.