Stephenson retires after 46 years of teaching

December 13, 2005

PLATTEVILLE-One can only imagine how many papers an English professor must have read after 46 years of teaching. For now, that figure will have to remain in the realm of imagination because retiring University of Wisconsin-Platteville English professor Gloria Stephenson won't even hazard a guess. The number, she said, may be "too overwhelming" to digest.

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Almost 25 of Stephenson's 46 years have been spent in the service of UW-Platteville. She joined the Department of Humanities (then the Department of English) in 1981, and prior to that, taught at colleges in Missouri dating back to 1970. Before entering the world of higher education, Stephenson taught at schools in Missouri, Iowa and Buckinghamshire, England. In addition to serving on numerous committees, councils, task forces and advisory boards over the years, Stephenson served as director of Women's Studies from 1987 to 1990, chair of the English Department from 1990 to 1994 and interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Education from 1994 to 1996. She is the author of numerous publications including a "Handbook of Technical Writing," which she co-authored with four colleagues in 1990. She has also written and presented numerous professional papers on technical writing, women's studies and American literature.

Colleagues say Stephenson has made many important contributions to the university through the years. "She has been a valuable member of our department and in her several capacities as chair of the department, director of Women's Studies and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Education. She has been well-respected by her students and her colleagues," said John Vacca, an English professor who has worked with Stephenson for many years.

David Van Buren, associate vice chancellor and dean of UWP Graduate Studies, echoed Vacca's sentiments. "I had the pleasure of working with Gloria when she chaired the Women's Studies Program Council and also when she served as interim chair of the College of Liberal Arts and Education. Gloria provided a very open and democratic style of leadership that made everyone feel that their voice was being heard. She has really made a difference at UWP," he said. UW-Platteville provost, Carol Sue Butts, agreed that Stephenson has made many contributions to campus and community life and said her commitment to helping other faculty seemed particularly important. "Years ago, she helped build our first mentoring program, pairing seasoned faculty with new faculty. We're still following the model that she established. She's been a dedicated and loyal instructor for over 24 years, and we will miss her," Butts said.

Longevity seems to be the hallmark of Stephenson's life. She has been married for 50 years to her childhood sweetheart, Roger Stephenson, who retired from the UWP Department of Science in 1992. Through the years, she said that they have focused on raising their two children, their roles as teachers and continuing their respective educations. In fact, Stephenson said it is that focus which helped her be successful in both her domestic and career lives. "I trimmed away just about everything in order to do my best at work and home. This doesn't mean I don't have other interests, but I eliminated a lot of extra activities from my life," she said.

Those interests include art, music, literature and, of course, writing. Stephenson said those passions have been an indispensable part of her success as a teacher, wife and mother. "Art brings enrichment to life in the way the workaday world can never bring. To be only devoted to the bottom line brings burnout and tremendous pressure. Art helps us to reflect on who we are, to become more than just a 'worker.' Art, music, poetry - I can't imagine going through life without them," she said. UWP professor of biology, Marilyn Tufte, painted much the same portrait of her longtime friend. "Gloria draws great strengths from the many good things in her life. Among them are her family and friends, colleagues, students and, of course, her books and pets. All of these things assume their roles as her greatest pleasures," said Tufte.

It was that support network, Stephenson said, which sustained her during a time of critical illness in 1996. After suffering a serious heart attack in 1996, she was hospitalized for quite some time and recuperating for many months more. "I was stunned by the outpouring of support from the university and community. There were so many flowers, the hospital looked like a hothouse. I'm not sure I've ever had the opportunity to thank everyone who helped me through that time, so I'd like to make sure they know how much it meant to me and to my family," she said. Now that the Stephensons are both retired, they will spend more time at their cabin on Lake Superior, leisurely shoveling snow, and visiting their children, who live in Madison and Minneapolis.

Contact: Carmon Faymonville, chair, Department of Humanities, (608) 342-1925,famonvcille@uwplatt.edu

Prepared By: Evelyn Martens, UWP Public Relations, (608) 342-1194,martense@uwplatt.edu

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