Khakis, bow ties, slicked hair, dress suits—as students it is easy to caricature professors as lofty academics, forever frozen in the mind’s eye as formal fixtures behind a podium. While at Union we have professors who embody the spirit of academic excellence, it isn’t often that students are able to see the well-rounded individual that exists outside the classroom setting.
Inside their offices, personalities emerge—lending a robustness to the academic person students know in class. The trinkets, the random collectibles, the faded pictures and record players tell stories of the experience that resides behind and informs the richness of classroom interactions.
The World Traveler
In class, English Professor Gavin Richardson is the picture of professionalism, a trait which is only further solidified by walking into his office. The room is full to overflowing with medieval collectibles, but there is not a room on campus that contains so much matter in so small a space and still manages to look pristine. “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” stands emblazoned in Gothic script over a door which promises to lead to an intimidating interior and renders the distinctly British and comforting aura of the room beyond surprising. Small sculptures of The Thinker and little medieval characters perch on the shelves in and around the books. Behind his gown and tassels hides a trophy which reads “Nerd,” and crowning the main book shelf a grisly gargoyle grimaces in the direction of the desk, like an Elf on the Shelf from a childish nightmare. Tucked away in the corner sits an electric guitar, and its acoustic sister, both of which Richardson plays in his band The Blue Eyed Sun, and band posters sit discreetly on the back side of the door—visible only when the door is shut.
Most notable is the myriad of medieval manuscripts which cover the walls that Richardson obtained through extensive travel. Many of the pieces featured are short passages from the Quran which he purchased while traveling to the Middle East.
“There is a palpable love of manuscripts in the Islamic culture,” Richardson said. “You can see the lovingness with which these were copied out.”
Richardson uses both the manuscripts and his collection of world-wide ancient coins in class. He has a coin to accompany almost every era, and his students often emulate the ancient scripts by creating their own medieval manuscripts.
“That is where form meets function,” Richardson said. “These are more than pretty decorations on my wall.”
A few doors down, one discovers a sentimentalist and a distinctly type B personality in Chair of the English Department, David Malone’s, office. Care-free and an obvious coffee enthusiast, Malone sits amid piles of papers, empty coffee mugs and other random knick-knacks which are less for decoration than they are just looking for a drawer to be stowed in.
His walls feature an extensive collection of art which progresses from left to right: beginning with stick figures, and ending with beautifully elaborate pieces.
“My daughter did these for me. This one my oldest daughter did when she was in kindergarten,” he said, pointing to what appears to be two brown horses with frighteningly red lips. “A year later she said ‘I can do so much better!’ so I put that one up. She has done one every year since.”
Malone’s daughter Emilie majored in art at Union and has gone on to become a prolific artist, but Malone still treasures her amateur work.
“I’m nostalgic I guess,” Malone said. “I liked it when they were six years old.”