Faculty Retirees Leave Lasting Impression on Wooster and its Students
Hayden Schilling, Marilyn Loveless, and Thedor Duda depart after more than a century of combined service
WOOSTER, Ohio — When Hayden Schilling joined the history department at The College of Wooster in the fall of 1964, Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States, Beatlemania was sweeping across America, and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was just beginning to escalate. Marilyn Loveless would not arrive for another 23 years, and Thedor Duda would follow three years after that. But all three will depart together this summer, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of teaching, mentoring, influencing, and inspiring young scholars.
Schilling, a 1958 graduate of Southern Methodist University, was still in pursuit of his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt when he came to Wooster on a one-year contract. Three more one-year contracts would follow before he was offered a tenure-track position.
When asked if he expected to be here for half a century, he laughed and said, "Heavens no." He worked under five presidents, and held two important administrative positions along the way: dean of admissions and vice president for academic affairs. In both cases he was appointed not so much for his experience as his tireless work ethic.
"I was asked to oversee admissions for six months and stayed 12 years," he says. "I was asked to serve as academic vice president on two occasions. I didn't really have time to think it over. I just did it." Schilling was attracted to the two administrative positions because of the challenges they posed. "I like to solve problems," he says. "I have always had an interest in working through difficult situations."
As for his favorite extracurricular activity, there was no question that it was coaching tennis. Schilling guided the varsity netters for 34 seasons. During that time his teams won four conference titles, received three NCAA Tournament bids, and posted 451 victories. He was also named NCAC Coach of the Year five times.
Most of all, Schilling cherished his time in the classroom. "I have always enjoyed Wooster students," he says. "They are still remarkable to me. They're not afraid to take risks, and they often wind up doing better than they ever thought they would."
In reflecting on his five decades of service at Wooster, he said, "I have enjoyed every minute of my time here. I wouldn't change a thing." As for his legacy, Schilling downplays his impact and prefers instead to reflect on the institution. "I value the College very much," he says. "I've just tried to help wherever I was needed."
In regard to the future, Schilling and his wife, Joan, plan to remain in Wooster. "We really like it here," he says. In the meantime, he plans to take some time to decompress and maybe catch up on some of the sleep he lost over the years, but he has no plans to slow down. In fact, he'll continue to do what he has done for the past half-century — try to help in any way that he can.
Lyn Loveless is equally modest about her contributions during the past 28 years. "I wanted to be a good teacher at a place that valued good teaching," she says. "I wanted students to know that I cared for them and also had high expectations so they could expand their own expectations about their capabilities."
Loveless, who earned her Ph.D. at Kansas, was pleased to join the faculty at Wooster because she wanted to teach at a small liberal arts college similar to her undergraduate alma mater, Albion, and she had a clear vision of what type of educator she wanted to be. "You have to have a command of the discipline, but also be able to identify what is essential and what can be acquired over a longer period of time," she says. "You have to be focused on what students are learning and how you can generate interest and enthusiasm so they become engaged in the discipline."
Not only did Loveless cherish the opportunity to inspire the students who majored in biology, but also those outside of the sciences. "I taught a class in tropical biology to non majors, and I found that very rewarding," she says. "It was an opportunity to encourage these students to take the sciences seriously."
Loveless, who also spent six years as department chair, has been deeply committed to her craft and is especially passionate about the environment. She has been a member of the environmental studies faculty and was actively involved in sustainability issues on campus. She also worked closely with the Expanding Your Horizons Workshop, a program that provides early exposure to the sciences for elementary school girls. In addition, she continues to serve on the Board of Directors for The Wilderness Center and is a member of Friends of Wooster Memorial Park.
As Loveless looks back on her career at Wooster, two things stand out — the institution's lack of pretentiousness, which makes the campus a "welcoming place," and, of course, its commitment to undergraduate research, particularly its nationally acclaimed Independent Study (I.S.) program. "I.S. gives students an opportunity to be their own teachers, to become actively involved and engaged in a topic that interests them," she says. "It is a huge investment in terms of time, but often the student becomes a peer of the faculty member in terms of knowledge of that particular topic."
Loveless may be leaving the classroom, but she will continue to be actively involved in learning. She and David McConnell, professor of anthropology, are currently working together on a book about how the Amish understand nature.
Theo Duda was attracted to Wooster by a position that offered a rare combination of voice and music theory. A graduate of the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music, Duda earned his master's degree at Michigan State and his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. By the time he joined Wooster's faculty in 1990, he was already a seasoned educator, having taught at schools in Kansas, Illinois, and North Dakota.
Unfortunately, a college prank in which cherry bombs were detonated in his residence hall as an undergraduate led to the development of Ménière's Disease, a disorder of the inner ear that distorts sound and causes severe pain. This ultimately forced Duda to give up teaching voice in 2004, but he continued to teach music theory and first-year seminar, which enabled him to provide writing instruction and guidance for young students.
Duda, who has more than 200 compositions to his credit, admits that students occasionally found him abrupt, even unpleasant, but, he insists, there was always a pedagogical reason, even though some of them didn't realize that until long after graduation. "I've probably had two dozen students who called years later to apologize," he said. "They would tell me that they didn't understand the value of what I was teaching at the time, but that they really appreciated it now."
What Duda brought to the learning process was a level of intensity that caught some students off guard. The reason for his approach, he says, is that "music, good scholarship, and good thinking are intense processes" and must be taught accordingly.
Despite his sometimes acerbic manner, Duda often revealed a very creative sense of humor, perhaps because the Polish translation of his last name is "jester." One incident that stands out above the rest occurred when an Amish woman on a bicycle drove by with several large packages of Cheetos piled high in her basket. One faculty member wondered why, and Duda, without hesitation, explained the Cheetos have a special nutrient that is typically absent from the traditional Amish diet. The faculty colleague fell for it, only to be informed by Duda that his explanation was a complete fabrication.
In retirement, Duda looks forward to being off the clock, but he does have some noteworthy plans for the future, including assisting with adult literacy efforts at the Wayne Country Public Library. He is also teaching himself to play accordion. Being of Polish descent, he thought, "why not?" And who knows, maybe someday residents at assisted-living centers where he plans to volunteer will be inspired to dance the polka.