The Other Class of '04

By Rachel Beck '04

Though this May brought commencement ceremonies for the class of 2004, another group of people departed Vassar with considerably less fanfare. Three professors retired this spring, and they will certainly be missed.


A cartoon of women studying
A cartoon of women studying

Harvey Flad

Professor of Geography

Professor Flad began his teaching career at a time when the future of his department at Vassar was uncertain. In 1972 Flad was hired by the college to fill the sole position in the Geography Department. Though there was talk of abolishing the discipline, Flad persuaded the college to not only keep the department, but to develop a major for geography in conjunction with anthropology.

In his 32 years at Vassar, Flad has served as chair of the Geography Department (1983-98), chair of the Geography and Geology Department (1988-98), and director of the American Culture Program (1998-2001). He also has acted as director for both the Urban Studies and Environmental Studies Departments. In 1997 he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship and lectured in Kyrgyzstan.

Flad gave the spring convocation address in 2003, speaking on "Sense of Places, Senses of Place." He recalled that his grandson, upon viewing the distinguished, robed faculty members, had exclaimed, "Wow, it's just like Harry Potter!" This, along with handing daughter Krista Flad Lewis '90 her diploma at graduation, ranks among his favorite Vassar memories.

One of Flad's advisees, Craig Dalton '04, said: "As my academic mentor, Harvey has given me unparalleled advice and opened many important and fascinating doors in geography and academia. Never before have I met someone with such a great understanding of American culture as part of the American landscape and who is so involved with local geographic processes."

Flad's plans for post retirement are numerous, including work on a book about the history of Poughkeepsie, continuing legal testimony regarding a proposed cement plant in the Hudson Valley, and more travel ("Why do you think I became a geographer in the first place?" he quipped).

Eamon Grennan

Professor of English

Eamon Grennan started working at Vassar in 1974. Formerly a professor at Lehman College of the City University in New York, he has spent the bulk of his academic career in Poughkeepsie. Since arriving at the English Department, he has taught courses ranging from freshman English to Shakespeare to Irish literature to a poetry seminar.

Grennan began to focus on his poetry shortly after taking his professorship, and "since that time the writing of poems has edged or pushed or jostled its way to more or less the center of my working life, to take its place alongside teaching," he said. His published works include Still Life With Waterfall, Relations, and As If It Matters. Grennan has also published a book of essays about Irish poetry and a collection of Giacomo Leopardi translations.

A dedicated professor, Grennan stressed the interactions between teacher and student as integral to Vassar's character and said, "In my 30 years here I have grown increasingly to admire and feel good about the particular nature of that relationship as it is lived out in classrooms and offices and all the other incidental spaces that make up the community of the college." He seems to personify that relationship. Eric Motylinski '04 praised the way Grennan "gracefully and flawlessly blends the simultaneous roles of being his students' most passionate critic and zealous defender."

Richard Lowry

Professor of Psychology

Richard Lowry came to Vassar in 1965 after receiving his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in the same year. In 1987 he was appointed for a three-year term to the William R. Kenan Chair, and he currently holds the Jacob P. Giraud Chair of Natural History.

Lowry has written or edited a multitude of publications, including The Architecture of Chance: An Introduction to the Logic and Arithmetic of Probability; The Evolution of Psychological Theory: A Critical History of Concepts and Presuppositions; and the 3rd edition of A. H. Maslow's Toward A Psychology of Being.

His courses have included "Introduction to Psychology," "Personality Theory," "Research Methods," and many more. Katherine Oliver '05, described Lowry as "possibly the only person who could ever make 'Statistics' even remotely interesting. He's a real gem." Though his teaching days may be over, Lowry has plenty to keep him busy. In the past few years, Lowry has developed an award-winning "statistical computation Website" (faculty.vassar.edu/lowry/vassarstats.html) that has attracted "about two hundred thousand 'hits' per year worldwide." Lowry intends to continue work on this project after his retirement, in addition to hiking and spending time with his wife.

As for what he'll miss about Vassar, Lowry said, "now and again, perhaps in one out of every 10 classroom sessions, everything clicks together in just the right way and you find yourself wishing it would never end."

Cartoon credit: Jean Anderson '33