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Work continues for retiring professors

  • Retiring facultyJames Axtell, one of the College's distinguished professors who is retiring this year, has a multitude of projects that promise to keep him busy.

    By Stephen Salpukas

    Retiring faculty

If you don’t count the seven Ph.D. candidates he will continue to advise, the book he’s writing, the two he’s editing on Woodrow Wilson’s educational papers and the office he’ll keep just down the hall from where he’s been, James L. Axtell, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities, has “retired.”

“That’s retirement with quotation marks,” says William and Mary’s Axtell, a 2004 inductee in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the author or editor of 17 books and 70 articles. 
In addition, he’ll continue his membership in two lunch groups – one that meets to discuss American colonial history, another consisting of professors emeriti. 

And if you’re wondering if he’s doing anything retirees are expected to do, he is taking a summer trip to Maine. Aside from that, however, his “retirement” schedule will be busy with what he knows best – writing and working with W&M students.

Axtell’s primary interests have been the history of American higher education and the history of Native Americans – two of his books on Native American history have sold more than 10,000 copies. He is currently working on a profile of “the Big Three” -- Harvard, Yale and Princeton – and the role they have played in American life. For loyalty exhibited by alumni giving, No. 1 in the U.S., he says, is Princeton, where the adage is, “We don’t admit freshmen; we admit alumni.”

A one-time holder of long-jump records at Yale (from which he received his bachelor’s degree) and Cambridge (which awarded him a Ph. D.), Axtell has been with the College since 1978. In 1988, Axtell was awarded an Outstanding Faculty Award by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Administered by the State Council of Higher Education, the award is the highest honor given to faculty members by the state. 

Among his other honors, Axtell has received numerous fellowships (including the College’s first Guggenheim in 1981), has been president of the American Society for Ethnohistory, and chairman of the American Historical Association’s Columbus Quincentenary Committee. He’s also been a member of editorial boards for the “William & Mary Quarterly,” “Ethnohistiry,” and the “History of Education Quarterly.” Prior to coming to William and Mary, he taught at Yale, Sarah Lawrence College and Northwestern University.

Axtell will be joined in retirement this summer by a number of distinguished faculty colleagues at William & Mary.

John A. Musick, A. Marshall Acuff Jr. Professor of Marine Science, too, will remain active during retirement. Known as one of the nation’s top shark experts, Musick will be working with four doctoral candidates, and also will author or edit three books. One will be the second volume of a work called “The Biology of Sharks.” Others will be a field guide to fish of the Chesapeake Bay and a third work will be a collaboration on a wildlife atlas. His hideout is a home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where he plans to spend part of summer. 

A member of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science faculty for more than 40 years–Musick came to southeastern Virginia because VIMS is a center for graduate education, because it always gave him great latitude in research he could pursue, and because he favored life on the East Coast, though his studies have taken him to Alaska’s Prince William Sound and beyond. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers and master’s and doctorate from Harvard, and has been co-chair of the shark specialist group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In addition, he has headed the Virginia Sea Turtle Stranding Network. In 2001, Musick also received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the Commonwealth. In 2008, Virginia honored him with the Commonwealth’s Lifetime Achievement in Science award for his work in ecology and conservation of marine fishes and sea turtles.

Another retiring William and Mary colleague, Glenn E. Coven Jr, the Mills E. Godwin Professor of Law has been a member of the faculty at the William and Mary Law School since 1983. A specialist in taxation law, he is spending summer at his summer home in New Mexico and planning to pursue interests that have been overlooked because of the press of work. 

“I want to do some hiking, some woodworking, photography,” he says. He’ll also will remain interested in law and the teaching of it “as a public citizen,” Coven says.

In Professor John H. Drew’s case, leave it to a mathematician to list a specific number of things he wants to do – 50 (but the list keeps growing).

“Woodworking, gardening, genealogy, new porch screens, detail the truck, …” said the retiring William and Mary mathematics professor. He has been part of the faculty at William and Mary since 1970. 

“I want to do some traveling with my wife,” Drew said. “We have already been to the Grand Canyon and Bryce and Zion, so I think the next trip will be to places that will please her, like a small-boat cruise in Europe.” 

He added, “I didn’t plan to do much math, but it’s not turning out that way. I’m helping a graduate student with his thesis.” 

Peter D. Wiggins, professor of English, will begin retirement by expanding his interest in photography. Wiggins, a William and Mary professor since 1971, will spend part of his summer shooting parades and street scenes in Manhattan and Brooklyn with his Leica M3 and Mamiya 245. 

“I find photography, which has long been a passion, is taking more and more of my time,” he says. That passion also transferred into the classroom while at W&M-- Wiggins developed a freshman seminar on American literature and photography “and that has inspired me to do more of my own photography.”

He also intends to undertake a “long-term project on (16th century English poet) Edmund Spenser and his Italian predecessors in the epic romance. I’m presently working up another article on the subject.”