Experienced professors to retire


Story by Jenna

At the conclusion of the school year, Baker University will lose 96 years of combined experience with the retirement of three professors.

Professor of Religion George Wiley has worked at Baker for 35 years, Professor of Chemistry Gary Giachino for 25 years and Professor of English Preston Fambrough for 36 years.

“When you lose someone with that kind of longevity, one person much less three … you’re losing more than just a quality teacher, and a testament to being a quality teacher is the fact that they’ve been here that long, but you’re losing … people with 30 years of institutional memory,” Rand Ziegler, vice president and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

Wiley and Fambrough are taking advantage of the university’s retirement bridge program, a financial incentive allowing faculty to retire prior to reaching the age of full Social Security.

Requirements for the retirement bridge program include the faculty member serving the university for at least 20 years and being between the ages 62 and 66.

During his 35 years at Baker, Wiley has taught numerous courses including Old Testament and New Testament, Christian Thought, Ethics and History, The Holocaust, American Religions, Shaping of Western Thought and multiple liberal studies classes.

“I sure am clear that I’m still enjoying my work and especially the students, so (I’m not retiring) because I’m unhappy, but I have been doing it a long time, and I think I might just start a new chapter in my life,” Wiley said.

After retirement, Wiley said he and his wife plan to move to Lawrence. He would also like to do supply work for the Episcopal Church he belongs to.

Fambrough hopes to travel to Europe and visit some of the great art museums of the world.

Giachino, on the other hand, is looking forward to a simpler activity, fictional reading.

Giachino’s teaching career did not begin when he arrived at Baker. He taught for 17 years in the New England area, including Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Connecticut College in New London, Conn., the State University of New York in New York, N.Y. and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., one of the top engineering science schools in the country.

“I’m really committed to liberal arts, so I think that’s a better overall education,” Giachino said. “I took the job here primarily because of the people … When I interviewed here, I lived on the coast. I was blown away by the friendliness of the people here in Kansas.”

After 96 years of combined experience, Wiley, Giachino and Fambrough have seen many changes on Baker’s Baldwin City campus.

“A lot of change happens in 36 years,” Fambrough said. “I mean, we’re talking about a third of a century. I actually came to Baker before the dawning of the personal computer age. I mean, when I came here, papers were still written on typewriters. So, the technology evolution that has occurred during my teaching career … it’s just absolutely mind boggling.”

Wiley, Giachino, and Fambrough have also seen their fair share of success while on campus. However, they accredit their accomplishments mostly to the students.

“I would consider my achievements to be my students’ achievements” Fambrough said. “That’s not just the achievements of those who have been spectacularly successful. (It’s) working with students who struggle with their writing or struggle to understand literature and seeing them make progress; seeing the lights come on. I guess every light that comes on is an achievement.”

One of the things Giachino is particularly proud of during his time at Baker is his “What Chemists Do” presentation for fifth graders. During this presentation each Jan., he gives the students demonstrations, interacts with them, and they do experiments.

“What’s fun is that sometimes some of those students come to Baker,” Giachino said. “When they come here and I found out they went to one of the schools I do this with, I make a photocopy of the (thank you) letter that they wrote in fifth grade.”

Each retiring professor will miss one common thing about Baker University.

“I will miss my students,” Wiley said. “It is really just a lot of fun to be around young people. They’re often idealistic, and I like that. Baker students are so friendly and respectful. They’re just great.”

Ziegler said a search would begin for a new chemistry professor as well as a new religion professor. Fambrough’s position will eventually be replaced, but Ziegler does not know when.