They’ve taught generations of Holy Cross students in classrooms, laboratories, arts venues and even locales abroad. Now, these esteemed faculty members are retiring: Robert Bertin, Distinguished Professor of Science; Thomas Cecil, Distinguished Professor of Science; Barbara Craig, associate professor of theatre; Robert Garvey, associate professor of physics; Maurice Géracht, Stephen J. Prior Professor of Humanities; Theresa McBride, professor of history; and Virginia Raguin, Distinguished Professor of Humanities. From earning prestigious accolades to making research advances to implementing innovative programs at the College, these educators leave an unforgettable legacy.
Robert Bertin joined the biology department in 1984. His fields of study include ecology and natural history of higher plants. The monograph “Vascular Flora of Worcester County,” one of the many publications he’s authored or co-authored, positioned him as the preeminent expert in how the local flora has shifted due to forces such as climate change, species introductions and patterns of land use. Bertin has won various contracts and grants, including those from the National Science Foundation. At Holy Cross, he was chair of his department and played an integral role in the Environmental Studies Program. From 2016 to 2019, he held the Anthony and Renee Marlon Professorship in the Sciences.
“Field Botany remains one of my favorite courses, in part because its subject is closest to my current research, and in part because the course provides an opportunity for deep immersion in a familiar part of our environment, yet one that few people examine closely,” Bertin says. “Plants are marvelously accessible and their study requires no specialized equipment. Learning their names is the first step in understanding their ecological and evolutionary relationships and fascinating natural history. If a student leaves the class knowing these things and understanding the power of close observation, I feel that I have accomplished something of value.”
Thomas Cecil joined the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science in 1978. Cecil is a specialist in differential geometry and submanifolds. He authored “Lie Sphere Geometry,” in addition to writing or co-writing multiple other books and more than 30 journal articles. At Holy Cross, he was chair of his department and speaker of the faculty, and played an active role on several committees. A recipient of numerous Research in Undergraduate Institutions grants from the National Science Foundation, Cecil also received the Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship in 2008 and held the Anthony and Renee Marlon Professorship in the Sciences from 2009 to 2012, among other honors.
“As an alumnus of Holy Cross and a professor here for 42 years, I’ve always felt truly at home at the College,” Cecil shares. “Most of all, I’ve loved working with so many wonderful, bright students and getting to know them well on a personal level as well. I’ve especially enjoyed teaching the two advanced courses in my research area of geometry: Topics in Geometry and Differential Geometry. I’ve been impressed by the high level of accomplishment that many of the students in these courses have attained, including 18 who wrote honors theses in geometry under my direction. Several of those students went on to earn doctorates in mathematics at leading graduate programs. Working closely with so many outstanding students was certainly a highlight of my career at Holy Cross.”
Barbara Craig joined the Department of Theatre and Dance faculty in 2004. An expert in set and lighting design as well as technical production, Craig has shared her talents in academic, professional and community theatres across the country. At Holy Cross, she taught a range of courses, including Scene Design and Virtual Realities. She was instrumental in bringing the College’s many productions to life, from annual plays and musicals to dance concerts and Arts Transcending Borders performances. Many of her Holy Cross stagings have earned the New England Theatre Conference’s Moss Hart Award for Best College Production.
“Most people think opening night is the big deal in theatre, but for me, it is the first tech/dress rehearsal when everyone’s work comes together for the first time,” Craig says. “It is a day of stress and pride, tempered by exhaustion, but never more exhilarating than this year, when the opening number of ‘Cabaret’ blew the roof off Fenwick Theatre. Good thing there’s a new building on the horizon.”
Robert Garvey joined the physics department in 1977. His fields of study include theoretical atomic physics, general relativity and the philosophical implications of technology. At Holy Cross, he was integral in creating the College’s First-Year Program, serving as its inaugural director, and received national recognition for his outstanding work on behalf of first-year students. Over the years, he held various campus roles, including chair of his department. Garvey and Janine Shertzer, Distinguished Professor of Science, were co-recipients of a Sherman-Fairchild grant, creating the innovative course General Physics in Daily Life. In 2000, Garvey won a U.S. Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
“My favorite course was a two-course sequence that I taught for five years with Clyde Pax [professor of philosophy] over 35 years ago,” Garvey says. “My course was about how scientists interpret reality and Clyde’s course was, of course, much, much deeper. It was about the mystery in which we are embedded, about our role as interpreters of and our experience of being interpreted by reality. For me, teaching with Clyde [who passed away in 2017] was both a privilege and a revelation, in all the meanings of that word. It permanently affected how I thought, taught and lived.”
Maurice Géracht joined the English department in 1966. A scholar of late 17th-century to early 20th-century British, American and French authors and artists, he has been published extensively. In 2010, Géracht gained acclaim for his work as co-editor, with Frédéric Ogée Université de Paris since 1999, of the bilingual word and image journal Interfaces; the publication earning the prestigious Parnassus Award for Significant Editorial Achievement. At Holy Cross, Géracht’s impact has been felt everywhere, from helping to craft the College’s mission statement to securing major acquisitions for its art collection and exhibitions to founding and cultivating a robust, award-winning study abroad program, which he directed for 18 years. Géracht was awarded the College’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014 and received a French knighthood in 2018 when the government of France named him a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, the country’s oldest non-military decoration.
“Cleaning out my desk a few months ago, I came across a photograph of students around a dinner table talking to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg; the seminar was on that group of poets and novelists,” Géracht recalls. “Ginsberg had been invited to read at a local college. As we arranged to attend the reading, we discovered the other college hadn’t planned to pick Ginsberg up at the airport or take him to dinner. Our class volunteered to do all that — in short, we ‘hijacked’ him. It was one of those wonderful, memorable evenings with a very gracious gentleman: He signed our students’ copies of ‘Howl’ and ‘Kaddish.'”
Theresa McBride joined the history department in 1973. She is an expert in modern French and Italian history, with research interests in the comparative history of women and gender, as well as global environmental history. She authored the book “The Domestic Revolution: The Modernization of Household Service in England and France, 1820-1920,” one of her many publications. At Holy Cross, McBride was an active leader, chairing her department twice and serving as speaker of the faculty — the first woman elected to that position. She directed the Environmental Studies Program and the College Honors Program, and was instrumental in founding and leading the Women’s Studies Program (now the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program). She played an integral role in writing Holy Cross’ mission statement and in developing other College standards, such as the Title IX policies on sexual respect. McBride earned multiple fellowships, including several from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and honors, such as the College’s 2012 Distinguished Teaching Award.
“I’ve spent a career indulging my fascination with France’s history through many research leaves spent in France, but my particular joy has been in sharing my knowledge of this history with students at the sites where many of these events occurred,” McBride shares. “In the May term in Luxembourg, and more recently in the Maymester in Paris, I led students through the Maginot Line’s tunnels and narrated the experience of the world wars in ruined forts and military cemeteries in Germany and France. About 10 years ago, I helped create a course on Paris where it has been a delight to introduce students to its rich history, art and architecture, and watch as they discover their own special places in this great city.”
Virginia Raguin joined the department of visual arts in 1972. A leading scholar of medieval and Renaissance art as well as stained glass, Raguin has collaborated with peers across the globe on historic site conservation. Her curated exhibitions have appeared in many galleries, and she authored or co-authored numerous books and articles, as well as exhibition catalogs, garnering an award for “Sacred Spaces: Building and Remembering Sites of Worship in the 19th Century.” Over the years, Raguin earned various grants, including multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities. At Holy Cross, she served the department as chair, as well as head of its art history division. She directed the medieval and Renaissance studies minor, and held the College’s Brooks Chair in the Humanities from 2006 to 2010.
“People often ask what is my favorite work of art, and I find that the honest reply is, ‘What I’m looking at now,'” Raguin says. “The world is full of many modes of art and the process of engaging with any one of them is a privilege. The more familiar we are with some, the easier it is to connect to others. Do we see a familiar similarity, a new variation or a challenging contrast? And that thought extends to our teaching. As teachers, we remember the wonder, discovery and sense of confidence that we witnessed when anyone engaged and realized their own powers.”
Written by Meredith Fidrocki for the Summer 2020 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.
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