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Three Retiring Professors Reminisce About Careers, Rev Up for New Pursuits

Retiring Faculty

Sam Rhodes, Ph.D., Steve Browder, Ph.D., and David Chandler, Ph.D.

For Franklin College’s three retiring faculty members, the immediate future is sure to be more action-packed than front porches and rocking chairs. Rather, the three professors — with 109 years of service devoted to education among them — will be pursuing passion projects, traveling and spending time with family.  Two of them also will continue teaching part time at the college, during alternating semesters for the next two years.

Guiding successful generations of students

After receiving his bachelor’s of science degree in biology from Pacific Lutheran University and his doctorate in plant physiology from the University of Oklahoma, where he was an instructor, Steve Browder, Ph.D., accepted an assistant biology professor position at Franklin College in 1978. Since then, Browder has become head of the natural sciences division, taught two generations of students, witnessed the then 60-year-old Barnes Science Hall undergo a restoration in 1987 and been deeply involved in planning for its upcoming renovation and expansion, which will result in a science center. There have been many changes at Franklin College over the course of his career, but his reason for teaching has remained constant.

“It was all about working with the students and watching them grow and develop,” Browder said. “Since I’ve been at Franklin, we’ve had 120 students accepted into medical school, and that’s something I’m proud of. I also have a pre-dental student graduating this year whose dad was one of my students, and he also went to dental school.”

Jeff Harmon ’93, D.D.S., practices in Jasper, Ind., and his son, Thad Harmon ’17, is attending dental school in the fall. Both benefited tremendously from Browder’s classes and mentoring.

“Dr. Browder was a challenging professor but was always very fair,” Jeff recalled. “He had an open-door policy and made himself available whenever there was a need. He was an above-and-beyond professor who was always encouraging and always had a positive attitude.”

When it became time for Thad to consider his college choices, Jeff made sure there was a visit to Franklin College and an introductory meeting with Browder on the schedule. As Jeff hoped, the visit made a lasting impression.

“I thought, if Dr. Browder is invested in helping me, then I shouldn’t pass this opportunity up,” Thad said. “Now, I’m incredibly appreciative of all the time he’s put into me and my family. It’s definitely going to be the fondest part of my college career.”

Browder teaches such courses as General Biology, Cell Biology and Microbiology, serves as academic adviser for pre-med students, oversees the pre-med SCRUBS Club and occupies the Charles A. Deppe Endowed Chair in Biology, a position he has held since 1987.  He also serves on the Franklin College Physician Assistant Studies Advisory Board, which gives guidance on the development of a master’s program.

“The fact that I stayed at Franklin my whole career means I really enjoyed it, and going to work was something that I did that was fun. I got to teach students and see them become successful once they’ve gone through our program,” Browder said.

Ensuring that Franklin College can continue its successful track record in the sciences and provide students with the type of curriculum and engaged-learning opportunities that will make them desirable to prospective employers is important to Browder. It’s the reason he has been driving renovation and expansion plans for the Franklin College Science Center.

“Former Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs David Brailow got us going on the original planning process, and the board of trustees agreed to move forward and raise money in 2011,” Browder said. His involvement has included fundraising with the college’s development officers and collaborating with architects on the center’s design. He and former Franklin College President Jay Moseley also spent significant time meeting with Indiana business leaders in the life sciences to gain clear understanding of their needs and expectations of future employees. To help Franklin students majoring in the sciences compete in the workforce, it was clear the science curriculum needed updated and the building in which the curriculum was delivered would need to be overhauled.  A reinvented science curriculum rolled out in the fall of 2012; it emphasizes project-based hands-on learning and integrates broad technologies.

“Our role is to make sure students graduate knowing how to think like scientists,” said Browder. The new science center is key to helping the college continue the momentum behind its strong science programs and fully realize the curriculum.

Groundbreaking for the science center will take place May 18, and the renovation and construction will take approximately two years.  The first year will be dedicated to building a new section, and the second year will focus on renovating existing spaces, Over the same period, Browder plans to travel in the fall academic semesters and teach at the college in the spring semesters, giving him the chance to witness the building’s progress and be present for the completion.

“It’s kind of my baby, and I’ll have a vested interest in it,” Browder said.

Browder’s commitment to seeing the science center completed offers a glimpse of his overall professional dedication. Over the years, he has amassed many Franklin College honors, including the 1984 Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, the 1994 Clifford and Paula Dietz Award for Faculty Excellence and the 2010 Faculty Distinguished Service Award. In 1997, he was awarded a sabbatical study to do research on molecular biotechnology, and he was the past recipient of a competitive grant from Lilly Endowment for course development.

One wonders what’s next, after Browder fully retires.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “We’ll (spouse Lynette) keep our house in Franklin, visit our daughter in Virginia and son in Indianapolis and do a lot of traveling.” They have a monthlong trip planned to Australia and New Zealand next fall. Browder also plans to spend more time learning guitar and teaching himself astronomy.

Mentoring students to pursue their passions

 Samuel Rhodes, Ph.D., grew up north of Detroit, and he started his college education at Ohio Wesleyan University. After two years, he spent a year abroad in Strasbourg, France. Upon his return home, he transferred to the University of Michigan, where earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology. Then, it was on to Michigan State University, where he completed both a master’s degree and a doctorate in physiology.

“I came to Franklin College in 1979 because I always wanted to teach at a small liberal arts school. I was a part of the faculty for three years before going to teach at another school,” Rhodes recalled. “I kept in touch with Dr. Browder, and he convinced me to come back, and I’ve been at Franklin ever since the fall of 1986.”

Rhodes chairs the biology department and teaches several courses, such as Human Anatomy and Physiology, Animal Physiology and Bioethics. The latter is a mixture of the liberal arts, biology and psychology.

For Payton Thomas ’17, a biology major pursuing the pre-veterinarian track and minoring in neuroscience and chemistry, the Bioethics class was critical to helping her decide which specialization to pursue in veterinarian school this fall.

“When we got on the topic of cloning animals and insemination that really fascinated me, and I enjoyed the discussions about ethical issues in medicine and cloning,” Thomas said. “Dr. Rhodes definitely opened my eyes to a path in veterinarian medicine that I didn’t know existed. He will be greatly missed when he retires, especially because of his jokes using science puns!”

Rhodes said when he began teaching at Franklin College that none of the science professors were doing research projects. Now, he says all the professors do research; many of them collaborate with students and also find research opportunities for students with community partners. Rhodes currently supervises collaborative student-research projects in two different areas, environmental pollutants affecting reproductive cells and how specific compounds affect the processes of memory and learning.

With Rhodes’ guidance, D’Onna Robinson ’17 is investigating how environmental pollutants affect reproductive cells in cows as her senior research requirement.

“I was really in a pinch to fulfill my senior research requirement, and Dr. Rhodes was willing to take the time to work with me,” Robinson said. “He’s been a great research mentor and professor.” Rhodes even inspired Robinson to reconsider her career plans. After her graduation from Franklin College, Robinson will be enrolled in a clinical lab science program through Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

“After I took his Human Anatomy and Physiology class, I switched my athletic training major to biology. I’m so honored to have gotten the chance to work with him.”

Robinson’s story is only one example of the student successes that fuel Rhodes’ passion for teaching.  He has served as an on-campus mentor for many students during their senior internship experiences.

I really enjoy catching up with former students and learning about their career successes; it happens over and over again,” Rhodes said. “Right now my optometrist is a former student, when I had lower back problems the orthopedic surgeon was a former student and another former student is a veterinarian in Arizona – that’s exciting!”

Over the course of his career, Rhodes has won many Franklin College awards, including the 1989 Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, the 1996 Adviser of the Year Award, the 1997 Clifford and Paula Dietz Faculty Excellence Award and the 2012 Faculty Steering Committee Distinguished Service Award. In 1999, he used his sabbatical to make computer-based lab applications for his Anatomy and Physiology courses; he recognized that technology was an important part of professional development for students. His early efforts to integrate technology into the curriculum helped lay a foundation for the engaged learning activities vital to reinforcing learning today.

During his retirement, Rhodes will teach part time, alternating duties with Browder. He also plans to get involved in Indiana politics, play his guitar more often and travel. He and his spouse, Frances, will keep their residence in Franklin but will visit their sons in Massachusetts and California and travel to South Africa to explore Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls. Rhodes is eager to hike and see the wildlife. Rhodes also will continue his volunteerism in the Franklin community; he currently serves on the ethics committee at Johnson Memorial Hospital and on a scholarship committee for The People Foundation.

Leading students on philosophical journeys

 Professor of philosophy and religion David Chandler, Ph.D., has crossed the Atlantic Ocean and the equator numerous times to lead students on travel-study experiences designed to help them gain global perspective and address some of life’s toughest questions.

Chandler’s own search for meaning, appreciation for history and insatiable curiosity about the world have helped shape his career. He claims the first philosophy class he ever took at his undergraduate alma mater, Wheaton College, “hooked” him. He went on to earn his master’s degree in theology from Gordon-Conwell Seminary and his doctorate from Southern Illinois University. He taught for five years at a small liberal arts college in Iowa prior to joining the Franklin College faculty in 1981.

Since that time, Chandler has chaperoned students on 13 different travel-study courses to Brazil, Germany, Turkey, Poland, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and California’s San Francisco Bay area, returning to some locations multiple times. For many students, Chandler’s travel-study courses are life-altering.

That was the case for David Barickman ’14, who earned his bachelor’s degree in religious studies and took a Winter Term course in Turkey with Chandler in 2013,

“That is my favorite trip and my favorite country out of all I have visited,” Barickman said. “Dr. Chandler’s excitement for Turkey was overwhelming and contagious; I couldn’t help but be excited too. But, he always refocused our group on the magnitude of what happened in each church or mosque we were visiting.”

Currently, Barickman is obtaining his master of divinity degree at a seminary in Indianapolis.

“Dr. Chandler played an important role in my ability to transition into graduate work on religion,” Barickman said. “In his courses, I learned how to critically reflect on faith, religion and how we come to hold our beliefs. At the seminary, a lot of other students struggle with that type of thinking.”

Barickman added that he believes wholeheartedly his acceptance into a competitive summer program in 2014 was contingent on having traveled to Turkey with Chandler. The program called the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Project engages high-achieving U.S. students in a two-week study-tour in three Middle Eastern countries where they meet with leaders and organizations representing a range of viewpoints that help provide understanding about nuances of the region.

Chandler enjoys addressing contemporary issues such as the Middle East in his philosophy classes as well as core liberal arts courses he teaches. Key topics he delves deeply into with students include hierarchy of privileges and living sustainably. He often coordinates off-campus visits for students to farms and other businesses, where they can observe green practices and learn about the economic and environmental impact.

However, one course has been his longtime favorite to teach. “I have to say, after teaching 40 years of Intro to Philosophy, I still really enjoy that challenge of trying to introduce philosophy to students,” Chandler said. “I teach that learning is more important than getting answers. When I see students become curious that’s an accomplishment, and seeing the little sparks in their eyes when an idea clicks that’s rewarding.”

Alexis Bullock ’18 double majors in philosophy and political science, and she praises Chandler for making her a stronger student.

“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was really little, and I still plan on going to law school upon graduation, but after taking Chandler’s Intro to Philosophy class, I knew that I wanted to add philosophy as a major,” Bullock said. “I loved the class and how it challenged my position, how it forced me to think differently and taught me so much.”

With guidance from Chandler, Bullock has created a master’s thesis for graduate school. Chandler also gave Bullock the chance to present her thesis as a supplemental instructor in the Introduction to Philosophy course.

“I’m not sure how many professors on campus would let a student have their teaching time, but I was so honored and humbled to be given the opportunity,” Bullock said. “It meant a lot to me as a student.”

One of Chandler’s immediate plans after retirement is to attend a June seminar at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Chandler and approximately 15 other professors from around the world were invited to participate in the seminar addressing “Martin Luther’s Theology and the Jews.” Beyond that, Chandler will dedicate more time to his hobbies such as classical guitar and photography. In the 1990s, Chandler formed the Franklin Guitar Ensemble, a quartet that played at college functions, weddings, churches, book stores and conferences across the Midwest. Over the years, Franklin College has hosted multiple exhibits of his photography, which often documents travel experiences.

Chandler anticipates postponing any major decisions or making any other commitments during the first six months of retirement.

“Friends who have retired gave me that advice, and it sounds like good advice,” Chandler explained. “I love to travel, obviously, and I’m really excited about this summer because I have plans to go to Utah, Nevada and New Mexico.”

During his Franklin College career, Chandler earned the 2009 Faculty Teaching Excellence Award. He also served as the Maurice V. and Rose S. Johnson Chair in the Humanities. He earned two sabbaticals, first to study classical guitar at the Schule for Musik in Münster, Germany, which led to founding the Franklin Guitar Ensemble, and second to work on a photography project that culminated in a public exhibit at the college and enabled him to teach at The American University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He twice received grants from German academic societies to carry out research on 18th century Enlightenment era philosopher Immanuel Kant, which resulted in editing a scholarly book published by one of the country’s top academic presses. Further, Chandler was invited twice to speak at conferences on Kant in Kaliningrad, Russia, where the latter lived and taught.

Volunteerism is important to Chandler, who served five years on the Indianapolis-based Fathers and Families Center Board of Directors and helped co-found the Johnson County Interchurch Food Pantry in Franklin in 1988.

(Posted May 9, 2017)



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