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Retiring professors reflect on St. Thomas careers

By , Reporter  |  Tuesday, May 14, 2013 3:27 PM

The Rev. Dennis Dease isn’t the only faculty member leaving St. Thomas this year; seven professors plan to end their tenures at the university as well.

Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Joseph Kreitzer said Heino Beckmann, Robert Craig, Kerry Frank, Stephen Hatting, Glenn Sherer, William Walsh and John Cragan are retiring.

John Cragan

After teaching at the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Superior and Illinois State University, communication and journalism professor John Cragan came to St. Thomas 12 years ago.

“The thing I like about St. Thomas is you get to teach the whole person: mind, body and soul,” Cragan said. “I get to treat you as an integrated whole. That’s a lot easier for me than when I was at a state university.”

Junior Suad Mahamud said she easily talks to Cragan about personal topics such as family issues, making him one of her favorite professors.

“He does care about us as not only students but as people and he treats us with respect,” Mahamud said. “He notices things other professors notice but don’t want to say.”

Cragan often uses a storytelling method to apply his communication theories to real-life scenarios. Junior Sam Wisneski said his methods of teaching are quirky.

“At first, you have to adjust to it, but then you can really make connections to his stories, which you do learn his theories through him,” Wisneski.

Among his many achievements in life, Cragan called his students his biggest success.

“That’s what brought me back to teaching. I took a whole year off (in 2000). I said, ‘Gee, I’d rather wear out than rust out,’” Cragan said. “I really missed the students. That’s why I’m so insecure and afraid it’ll happen again.”

Though Cragan said he’s retiring, he will be back next fall to teach three courses in the communications and journalism department.

“The short of this is, I don’t think you ever retire, but I’m adjusting my schedule,” Cragan said.

Steven Hatting

Since 1982, professor Steve Hatting taught courses in law and judicial politics, American politics, political thought and the introductory political science course. In 2000, he was selected as Professor of the Year.

“It’s been grand. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Hatting said.

Sophomore Luke Hautzinger said Hatting is one of the “coolest professors ever.”

“(He’s) one of the most knowledgeable professors that I’ve had at St. Thomas,” Hautzinger said. “He’s always trying to engage students and look at different viewpoints.”

Junior Annie Longfellow had Hatting as an academic advisor and said there was never an awkward moment in class.

“I always get the impression that he is super interested (in) all the topics he teaches,” Longfellow said. “He also has a great personality.”

Hatting recently gave a last lecture talk that was “pretty emotional” for students and staff in the political science department, according to Longfellow.

“We are all going to miss Dr. Hatting a lot,” Longfellow said.

Hatting said he will miss the people and the new cycles of classes each fall at St. Thomas.

“I’ve always enjoyed the academic environment,” Hatting said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a hard transition for me to be away from that.”

As for what’s next for Hatting, he said he hasn’t decided yet, but it will include his wife who is also retiring this year.

“Whatever I do, she’ll do and vice versa,” Hatting said. “There’s a number of causes I’d like to give my time to and do some volunteer work.”

Kerry Frank and Heino Beckmann

Psychology professor Kerry Frank came to St. Thomas 24 years ago and said his time here was good and challenging.

“My students are excellent,” Frank said. “That’s the most rewarding aspect about being here because it’s a way I give something back.”

At 73 years old, finance professor Heino Beckmann said he has “no more hills to climb” as he retires this year.

“All together, (it’s been) a very satisfying and rewarding experience. In particular I’ve appreciated the way students responded to challenges,” Beckmann said.

Twenty-seven years ago, Beckmann began working in the St. Thomas finance department. Before coming to St. Thomas, Beckmann taught at the College of St. Teresa in Winona, Minn. He also has done international teaching and professional assignments in Germany, Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Taiwan, Uruguay and Canada.

“I think the enormous structures of St. Thomas shows, not only physically, but in the reputation (in which) the institution is built,” Beckmann said. “It has been a pleasure to observe and to be a part of the institution.”

Junior Molly Sigler contributed to the video.

Bjorn Saterbak can be reached at sate3878@stthomas.edu.

This item was posted in More News and has 2 comments so far.

2 Comments

  1. Robin Polk
    May. 15, 2013 11:29 AM

    Thank you, Dr. Cragan for all you have done for me and my peers at UST. I am truly grateful to have had you as a professor and mentor. Congratulations to all other retiring professors as well!

  2. Dr. D.Schuelke
    May. 17, 2013 10:17 AM

    I am going to miss talking with Dr. Cragan before and after my communication classes. He is one of the most gifted and dedicated professors that I have ever met. In my forty-plus years of teaching in colleges and universities, people with his spirit, talent, and energy are rare indeed. All of us in the Communication and Journalism deparment will miss him a lot. I wish him only the best in his retirement years.

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