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Summer 2006 | Volume 29, Number 3 | Faculty

School's Out

Professors say goodbye to SPU, hello to retirement

It’s hard to see a good person go. At a May 4, 2006, “Celebration of Service” dinner, Seattle Pacific University paid tribute to four retiring faculty members: Charles Burris, Michael Caldwell, Barbara Innes, and Delbert McHenry. Colleagues spoke of the retirees’ love for students, the classroom, and their respective disciplines — as well as their great treasury of wisdom, devotion, and innovation.

“These faculty members have cared for the ‘whole’ student, head and heart,” says Les Steele, vice president for academic affairs. “They have made a difference in countless lives.” Among them, the retirees have 121 combined years of commitment at Seattle Pacific.

“As an advisor and instructor, no one has been more patient than Chuck Burris,” says longtime colleague Professor of Computer Science Mike Tindall. “His door has always beenopen to students who needed one-on-one help with the intricacies of coding or analysis.” To Burris, associate professor of computer science, a simple algorithm is a thing of beauty. He began his academic career as a mathematician, earning a doctorate in applied mathematics from the University of New Mexico.

But gradually his teaching interests shifted from math to computer science and, in 1982, he was appointed the second full-time faculty member in the Computer Science Department at Seattle Pacific. He further enhanced his professional development by earning a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Washington.

In his early days at SPU, Burris assisted in organizing the first student computer club. He helped plan, administer, and judge the first student programming competitions held in a lab filled with what now seem like primitive machines: DEC Rainbows and IBMs.

In 1996, he coached the first-ever Seattle Pacific student team to compete in the West Coast regional programming competition. His colleagues say Professor of Art Michael Caldwell can capture the essence of a place with his art, or motivate an artistically reticent student, or be a calming influence to his colleagues — and do it all with equal parts grace and creativity. “His tolerance, acceptance, and encouragement have blessed us all,” says Professor of Art Roger Feldman.

Caldwell has worked with thousands of students at Seattle Pacific, both art majors and nonmajors. “Even if Michelangelo started at a place we’d all like to finish,” he tells students, “we have to start somewhere.” An accomplished artist in his own right, with paintings displayed in many galleries and collections across the nation, he is both a compassionate teacher and an example of someone who takes risks and places his best work in the public eye. Trained in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Oregon, Caldwell has been a mainstay at Seattle Pacific since 1970, serving for many years as chair of the University’s Art Department and providing the leadership required to build a credible visual arts program.

As associate professor of nursing and director of the R.N. to B.S. program, Barbara Innes is described by her students as passionate about caring for patients and teaching others to be the best health caregivers possible. “Everyone who knows Barbara knows they can count on her to function at the highest level of thinking,” says Lucille Kelley, dean of the School of Health Sciences. “Her wisdom is sought for its depth and quality.” Innes began her career as a nurse educator at Seattle Pacific in 1976 and has been active in the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), the King County Nurses Association, and Sigma Theta Tau International.

Recently, she was one of six people inducted into the WSNA Hall of Fame, a recognition for excellence in nursing and achievements that have enduring value to the profession. At SPU, Innes has possessed a deep commitment to faculty governance. She participated in multiple School of Health Sciences committees from “Academic and Student Affairs” to “Graduate and Post-Graduate Studies.”

Associate Professor of Psychology Delbert “Del” McHenry has taught more than a dozen different courses in psychology since he came to Seattle Pacific in 1973. Over the years, he has moved from a specialist to a generalist — what he calls a “utility professor” — so that even in his final quarter, he was responsible for three of the more challenging courses in the department’s curriculum.

Hired to teach in the areas of experimental and learning psychology, McHenry spent his early years on campus in a temporary corrugated-metal structure behind Alexander Hall. With limited budget, he used surplus materials to outfit a comprehensive learning lab. Those days are a far cry from the high-tech learning lab he recently helped plan for SPU’s new Science Building.

A model of good scholarship and personal discipline, McHenry has had a particular affinity with older students because, as he put it, he resonated with their anxieties and sense of purpose. “Del is an interesting and interested person,” says Míchéal Roe, dean of the School of Psychology, Family, and Community. “He is a kind, gracious, and fun-loving colleague.”


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