Holy Cross Bids Farewell to Three Beloved Faculty Members

Blaise Nagy, Karen Turner and Helen Whall share memories, anecdotes, and what’s next
July 14th, 2017 by 


Photo by Christian Locurto

As the campus tipped its hat to the class of 2017, it also bid farewell to three faculty members who retired at the end of the academic year: Blaise Nagy, Karen Turner and Helen Whall. These faculty members, who have been fixtures in the Holy Cross community for many years, share memories and anecdotes from their time at the College and talk about what’s next.

Blaise Nagy, Professor of Classics

Blaise Nagy

Where is your favorite spot on campus?

My office, of course. I’ve been the sole occupant of Fenwick 413 since 1976.

What was your proudest scholarly moment?

When I learned in 1991 that the American Journal of Archaeology had accepted for publication an article I had written on the Parthenon Frieze — a topic that had been all but picked clean by scholars over the last two centuries.

What is your favorite course to teach?

“Greek 341: Thucydides” — an author course in which we read about the history of the Peloponnesian War. During its last few iterations, I was able to teach the course using my own “Thucydides Reader” (“Thucydides Reader: Annotated Passages from Books I-VIII of the Histories,” Focus/Hackett, 2012).

Is there any memorabilia from your office that you will keep?

Yes, the plaster Horse’s Head, a replica of a sculpture from the West Pediment of the Parthenon. I bought it years ago from a now-defunct Museum Store at the Burlington Mall (in Burlington, Massachusetts). The salesperson could hardly believe that I was actually willing to pay $15 for it.

What’s next?

I want to play a significant role in the lives of my seven grandchildren. If time allows, I will return to my favorite classics field — Greek epigraphy (the study of ancient inscriptions).

Karen Turner, Professor of History and Distinguished Professor of Humanities

Karen Turner

What is your favorite course to teach?

My favorite course is the one I just taught in Montserrat, Dao and the Arts. The students are just amazing and they understood that Daoism offers a different way of living in the world … and what more can a teacher hope for?

What was your proudest scholarly moment?

My proudest scholarly moments have been two, as I work in both China and Vietnam. In both areas of my research I have been so happy when I learn that my take on Chinese law or Vietnamese women soldiers opens up new ways of looking at history.

What is something you always told your students?

Take joy in learning. Too often students equate suffering with a challenging course. It should not be that way. Learning should be a pleasure. That does not mean you don’t have to work hard, but it does mean that the process should be one of wonder and discovery.

What’s next?

A book called “Love and Law in Early China,” that draws on decades of scholarship based on new texts and a revised version of my film on Vietnamese women soldiers. And a collaborative work with Professor Shirish Korde that combines the music he has composed with historical footage of women in war in Vietnam. Much work to be done!

Helen Whall, Professor of English

Helen Whall

What is your favorite course to teach?

My favorite spot on campus is Fenwick 2, lined with benches from the original Jesuit chapel. I love coming on to that long corridor when the benches are full of students waiting to see their English professors, talking to each other, reading a book or, best of all, fiddling with the magnetic word board.

What is something you always told your students?

From fairly early in my career, whenever I taught first-year students in the fall, I would wait for a picture-postcard perfect New England autumn day, then ask my students to take a mental snap shot and tuck it away, because the next four years were going to go by in a blink. I’m beginning to feel that way myself about the last 40 years.

Is there any memorabilia from your office that you will keep?

Many years ago, students I taught in a First-Year Program seminar cut open a world globe and then hinged the front half. When you open the globe, you find a stage filled with images of those students, each in a “representative” costume. That goes home with me.

What’s next?

I have some unfinished business exploring Shakespeare’s comic vision, so I will be taking my Shakespeare files home with me, as well as that globe. I also want to continue examining the literary dimensions of contemporary theater. I hope to continue teaching, though perhaps in nontraditional venues. I expect I’ll return to Iceland — the culture fascinates me as much as the country. And, more than anything, I want to help those who strive for a more just society.

Written by Evangelia Stefanakos ’14 for the Summer 2017 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.


About Holy Cross Magazine

Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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