Retiring From the Berry Bubble: Faculty Share Highlights & Plans

Elisabeth Martin, Campus Carrier Features Editor

Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier Asst. Features Editor

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Massey, dean of student work, plans to continue working part-time for Berry after retiring in 2019. Photo courtesy of Rufus Massey.

After dedicating 25 years of his career to Berry, Dean of Student Work Rufus Massey is retiring. He has held numerous positions on campus such as the assistant dean of students and director of cooperative education, corporate foundation officer, and assistant vice president for alumni development and historic Berry. However, after his retirement, Massey said he will only work as a part-time staff member.

Massey first stepped into the role of director of student activities and manager of Krannert Center in the 70s where he began KCAB. The organization was reorganized to reflect the interests of the students.

“We decided that we needed to rename and reengineer the activities board to reflect that change,” Massey said.

One idea that he brought to the organization included mud-wrestling, which continued for more than two decades.

Massey said that some of the organizations and jobs that have stood out to him throughout the years include KCAB, the Student Enterprise Program and the Gate Scholar program. These organizations have allowed the students a learning opportunity with hands-on experience that he has been able to work closely with.

“The students I have interacted with, many of them are lifelong friends,” he said.

Once retired, Massey said his plans include traveling with his wife to Alaska and later to New York City, where they will attend the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. He will also continue to develop his passion for singing solo and in groups. For example, he is a competitive a capella singer with barber shop groups. He is a member of two quartets and three choruses. His long-term plans include continuing part-time work at the college where he will work for the office of advancement.

“I am not going to totally disconnect from Berry,” Massey said. “I am going to stay half-time and work for advancement work and fundraising work.”

Some of his fundraising work will include projects such as the new animal science wing in the McAllister building and finishing projects like the Ford auditorium renovations.


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Singh has taught political science classes at Berry for 35 years. Photo courtesy of Chaitram Singh.

Chaitram Singh, Gund professor of government and international studies, came to Berry in 1984. He is currently finishing his 35th year at Berry before he retires in May.

Singh’s hire at Berry was somewhat unusual. He came to Berry for an interview after the head of the social science department called him and informed him that there was a vacancy in the political science department. The search committee had received Singh’s information from the University of Florida, and Singh was concluding a two-year stint as a visiting assistant professor at the University of South Carolina at the time.

“I accepted the invitation, came for the interview, and was hired,” Singh said. “For the next six years, Peter Lawler and I taught the entire political science curriculum, my focus being on comparative politics and international relations.”

Berry appealed to Singh because of its “Christian-in-spirit” character and its focus on educating the head, heart and the hands.

“The education of the head, heart and hands mission and the culture it inspired both within the student body and the faculty inspired me greatly and kept me anchored here for 35 years,” Singh said.

Singh’s career at Berry has had many highlights. For example, in 1989, Singh was able to introduce the International Studies major into the political science curriculum. In addition, Singh has been able to publish four books: two political science monographs and two works of fiction. His two fiction works even received international recognition.

“‘The Flour Convoy’ received the 2012 Guyana Prize for Literature in the category ‘Best First Work of Fiction,’” Singh said. “‘Coup’ was the runner-up for the award in the category ‘Best Work of Fiction.’”

Like every professor, Singh takes pride in the accomplishments of his students. For example, several students were accepted to and graduated from top schools. Many took the route that Singh took by electing to serve in the military. One student, John Woolbright, is even the CIO of a billion-dollar company.

In Singh’s retirement, he plans to move to his newly acquired property on the west Florida coast. He said that after doing work to renovate and repair the house, he plans to continue his fiction writing.


Kurtz is retiring in May after a fruitful career at Berry. Photo courtesy of Karen Kurz.

Associate Professor of Teacher Education Karen Kurz will retire after a 24-year teaching career. She said some of her retirement plans include gardening, spending time with her 3-year-old grandson Jaxon and adjunct teaching. Eventually, she said she may move closer to the beach, but that is further down the road.

Kurz said that some highlights of her career have included her transition as the assistant dean for graduate studies. She began her role in 2001 and served until 2017. She said she enjoyed the curriculum design at the graduate level and teacher policies at a state and federal level.

“I was able to bring back that information and look at continuous improvement for our programs at Berry,” she said.

Kurz has been involved in a variety of committees on the campus.

For example, she served on the Course Model Credit Work Group which designed a lighter curriculum for professors. Kurz also served as chairperson for the applied behavior analysis committee that targeted techniques and strategies for people with behavioral disabilities.

Kurz said that the Applied Behavior Analysis was one the many highlights in her career because it had taken many years for the program to finally come to fruition.

“I was glad I was chair of that committee because I felt that it added to a program that has become strong at the college,” Kurz said.

Kurz said that she has always wanted to be a teacher but during the 70s, there were not many job openings. However, she changed her mind after doing field-work for an abnormal psychology class during college where she worked with patients with cerebral palsy.

“I had always wanted to teach,” Kurz said. “But I really just enjoyed working with individuals with physical disabilities.”

Before Berry, she worked at Wayne State University in Detroit and San Diego State University in California. She said that that after teaching in big cities, she was ready for a change.

“Something just said that this is where you need to be,” Kurz said. “So, I’ve been here for 24 years.”


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Graham looks forward to writing, painting, camping and fishing in his retirement. Photo courtesy of John Graham Facebook.

John Graham, Reid professor of biology, plans to retire at the end of this year after a 30 year career at Berry. Graham earned his Master’s degree at Rutgers University and pursued his PhD at Rutgers New Brunswick. He grew up in New York City, but has also lived in various cities in New Jersey, in Detroit, and in Rome.

Graham has taught a variety of subjects including ecology, limnology, botany, zoology, anatomy and physiology. At Berry, he teaches genetics and evolutionary biology. His PhD is in ecology.

“I’m a genetic evolutionary ecologist, I would say,” Graham said.

Graham came to Berry in 1989 and moved into a house on campus less than a year later. He has lived on campus ever since. He said he loves the campus because there is a lot to study as an ecologist.

“One of the things I am most proud of is research with students,” Graham said. “Lots and lots of students have come through my lab. I have published lots of paper with students. They are all cited pretty well.”

Publishing and conducting research has always been a huge part of Graham’s job. Once, he even published seven papers in a single year. He has done research all over the world, including in Russia. Graham says one of his proudest moments at Berry was publishing a paper on statistical distribution of phenotypic variation gene knockdowns of yeast. He is also proud of work he has done measuring leaf asymmetry. In total, his publications have been cited over 3,300 times.

Graham says that he is choosing to retire now because it seems like the right time.

“It was time to retire,” Graham said. “My wife passed away a year and a half ago and it has been difficult recovering from that. I enjoy teaching, and the grading and writing exams has always been a chore, but it seems like it’s more of a chore now than it ever was. So I figured it’s time.”

In his retirement, Graham plans to go camping, fishing and play jazz guitar with a local band. He continues to learn how to play funk, soul and jazz, and has been playing the guitar for over 50 years.

Additionally, Graham plans to pick up oil and acrylic painting, which he used to enjoy but put on pause while he went to school.

“I still have my easel, I still have my paints if they haven’t all dried up,” Graham said.

Graham also plans to write books. One of his ideas is to write about rewilding and the return of eagles, black bears, cougars and wolves in the United States and worldwide. He also plans to write a guide for helping people understand scientific literature.

“It’s time to do something else with my life, but not give up the research entirely,” Graham said. “I still have some interesting research ideas that I’m going to continue to follow up on.”


Jeanne Schul and Martha Tapia are also retiring at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, but they were unavailable for an interview.

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