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Web Feature Posted June 20, 2016

Retiring Faculty Members in 2016


With a collective 162 years of service, six distinguished faculty members retired this year, having made a difference in the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of Seattle Pacific University students. Find out a little bit more about them — and offer your former professor a word of congratulations below.

Kathleen E. BradenKathleen Braden

Kathleen Braden, Professor of Geography (34 years)

Kathleen Braden grew up in the Boston area, and earned her bachelor’s in Russian from Boston University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Her master’s and PhD degrees in geography are from the University of Washington, where she also holds affiliate faculty status. She joined SPU in 1982.

In addition to many years of teaching, Braden served as dean of Student Life for five years. She helped create the Global Development Studies major and is proud of the students who have received degrees in the program.

Braden’s family includes a son and a daughter, as well as a bevy of lazy cats who think she exists to serve them. She plans to spend her retirement not grading papers.

Leslie Bottcher McDonald
Wednesday, August 31, 2016, at 6:05 p.m.

Dear Dr. Braden: Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement! You were such an inspiration to me as a student in your Geopolitical class. You made my ever-expanding world come alive by your in-the-moment Geopolitical classroom exercises by encouraging us all to think beyond what we knew of our world and how we could make a difference. One of the things that has always stuck with me was an exercise we did on “negotiating to win” and how both parties, whether it be on some personal level or international level can agree to disagree and still win on both sides to get to a desirable outcome. I think our current political landscape could learn a few things from you :)

Thank you for cementing my interest in making my world a better place through my understanding of geography and politics. Your expertise will be greatly missed. Enjoy your retirement and may God richly bless you!

Sincerely, Leslie Bottcher McDonald ’89

Janae Detwiler-Michelson ’10
Tuesday, June 21, 2016, 4:26 p.m.

To Dr. Braden: I transferred to SPU my sophomore year after realizing my previous school and academic course of study was not a good fit for me. When I arrived at SPU, I became keenly aware that my academic interests were pushing me towards international non-profit work, anthropology, and global history/cultural studies. I remember having numerous conversations with friends saying, "I know these things must fit together in some way!"

Shortly after, I learned about the inception of the Global Development Studies (GDS) major and felt immediately at home. I am one of the many students who were impacted by your dedication to starting the GDS program and creating a space for students who were drawn to similar themes. The GDS program expanded my understanding of the world and my place in it. It was the catalyst for my work and learning in the Middle East and has brought me to where I am today. I’m deeply grateful for your leadership. It was an honor to have you as a professor! Enjoy your hard-earned retirement!

Janae Detwiler-Michelson, Class of 2010

Kerry L. DearbornKerry Dearborn

Kerry Dearborn, Professor of Theology (19 years)

An esteemed professor and passionate advocate, Kerry Dearborn has been a strong voice for reconciliation, diversity, and serving those on the margins. She has taught theology at SPU since 1994. She has also taught at Fuller Seminary Extension in Seattle and Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dearborn earned her PhD at the University of Aberdeen, her MS from Fuller Theological Seminary, and her BA from Whitman College. Dearborn has lectured at numerous institutions and conferences, and has taught classes at a number of churches.

In developing the Reconciliation Studies minor at SPU, and serving as its first director, Dearborn helped to give curricular expression to a central Seattle Pacific commitment.

Dearborn and her husband, Dr. Tim Dearborn, look forward to spending time with their daughters and their families. She hopes to be involved with either refugee/immigrant communities or children in juvenile detention. She will be giving some plenary talks at conferences and working on some writing projects. This summer, she and her husband will travel to Europe to see family and to celebrate their “retirement.”

Michelle Wunsch Fenske ’02
Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at 12:51 p.m.

To Dr. Dearborn: Congratulations and best wishes on your retirement! You were my professor for UCOR 1000 the first year that the new Core classes started. I loved that class! Having grown up in a non-denominational and charismatic church, I had never learned anything about church history. I was amazed to find out that Easter was a season, not just a day :)

But on a deeper level, I learned that there is a rich tapestry of diversity within the Christian tradition and that there is no one church that “best” or “correctly” worships God. It was really eye-opening for me, because growing up, I’d been taught that our church was pretty much the best church there was and all those other denominations were missing out on truly worshiping God like we did. I can honestly say your course strengthened and deepened my faith, and I became more open-minded in the process. Thank you for your many years of dedicated service to the SPU community! It was a joy to have you as a professor.

Sincerely, Michelle (Wunsch) Fenske, Class of 2002.

Megan Daniels Langer ’99
Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 9:33 a.m.

Dr. Dearborn, I have often wondered if you remember students from over the years. It seems like an impossible thing to do considering how many lives you have touched over the course of your years at SPU. I was a student there from 1995–1999, and you were one of my favorite professors. I majored in Educational Ministry and Religous Studies, so I had you for many classes. You also led a small group for some of us for awhile. You helped shape who I am, and helped me to see God differently and more fully than I had up to that point.

I specifically remember a prayer retreat that you either took us to or assigned to us where we spent a couple of days in silence. I loved worshipping God through that time. You were (and still are, I am sure) a loving, compassionate, inspiring, thoughtful, kind professor, and I am different in many positive ways because I had the blessed opportunity to learn from you.

Thank you for the way you poured into students’ lives. God has used you in big ways, and for that I am grateful. I hope and pray that you enjoy this next season of your life and continue to seek God’s leading and direction through these next years. I am confident He will continue to use you to touch people’s lives.

With love, Megan (Daniels) Langer ’99

Eric A. HansonEric A. Hanson

Eric Hanson, Professor of Music (37 years)

Eric Hanson has been an integral part of the music program since he started at Seattle Pacific University in 1979. He holds a BME from Wheaton College Conservatory, an MM in conducting from Colorado State University, and a DMA in symphonic conducting from the University of Washington.

Hanson’s love for music has taken him around the globe with conducting, performing, and speaking engagements. His conducting for Thalia Symphony and SPU’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble, as well as composing, and coordinating many years of successful Sacred Sounds of Music concerts has had a wide-ranging impact.

He is a true Renaissance man, with interests in science, music, and literature. With a well-rounded and deep understanding of the world, and a devotion to Seattle Pacific, Hanson has influenced both students and peers. His dog, Rennie, has become the Music Department’s de facto therapy dog and will be missed.

Hanson and his wife, Susan, live in Edmonds, Washington, where he plans to spend many days with his family. They have two sons and a grandson.

Michelle Spann Comwell ’95
Friday, August 19, 2016, at 7:35 p.m.

Dear Dr. Hanson,

Congratulations on many years of faithful service, inspiring so many of us to pursue excellence, to seek truth and beauty, and to grow in wisdom. Through music you opened doors into history and philosophy that never would have budged otherwise. I occasionally pass on a one of your memorable stories or insights to our own children or those I tutor. Thank you for the sharing your passion for education and music with generations of students.

May the Lord bless next chapter, which I hope is a long and enjoyable one (just don’t write a ninth symphony!), Michelle Comwell (aka Spann) ’95

Andrea Tisher
Thursday, June 23, 2016, at 1:27 p.m.

Dr. Hanson, You were not only a great professor while I was at SPU, but you have continued to be a source of wisdom and inspiration during the 17 (!!) years since I left Seattle.

Thank you for lecturing without notes on subjects you were passionate about. Thank you for being an excellent musician AND an excellent human. And thank you for welcoming me as a fellow pilgrim — inviting me to walk with you and to realize that even my mentors and role models were just figuring things out as they went too. All the best in this next chapter!!! Mahler still unlocks something in me and that’s entirely your doing!

Andrea Tisher

William R. KauppilaWilliam Kauppila

William Kauppila, Executive-in-Residence (10 years)

William Kauppila attended Northern Michigan University and graduated with a double major in accounting and mathematics, then earned an MBA at Western Michigan University. In Seattle, he served as a partner in a local accounting firm for 23 years.

In 2003, he changed to part-time with the firm and began teaching as an adjunct at SPU, where he was soon invited to join the faculty, teaching various accounting, taxation, and personal finance classes. This quarter marks 10 years as a faculty member.

Kauppila’s greatest joy as an instructor has been the opportunity to work with so many bright students and see their potential begin to come to fruition in the real world. He has continued to work as an active CPA, currently for a firm started with his son.

Kauppila and his wife spend winters living in Honolulu, where he teaches at Chaminade University and does consulting work. He and his wife, Carol, have three married children and nine grandchildren.

Stephen LaymanStephen Layman

Stephen Layman, Professor of Philosophy (30 years)

Stephen Layman has served in a variety of capacities during his 30-year tenure at SPU. In addition to 20 years as chair of the Philosophy Department, he has been faculty chair and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Layman was awarded the President’s Citation for Excellence in 1998 and was recipient of the Winifred E. Weter Faculty Award for Meritorious Scholarship in 2014.

For the past 16 years, Layman has served in the important role of lead instructor of UCOR 3000. He was the course’s chief architect at its inception, and he has led the team of instructors in a continuous process of revising course content and delivery.

Likely few people are aware that the New Faculty Seminar came about as a result of Layman’s vision. He pitched the idea and proceeded to teach the seminar in its first years. It is noteworthy that he has managed to do all of this while maintaining an exemplary scholarly record which, in addition to a number of important articles and a book on ethics, includes a logic textbook so widely used that it has become a philosophical staple.

Edward SmythEdward Smyth

Edward Smyth, Professor of Educational Ministry (32 years)

As a teacher and mentor, Edward Smyth has helped to shape the lives of generations of SPU students. He holds an EdD from Boston University, an MRelEd from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a BA from Taylor University.

Smyth first joined the SPU School of Theology faculty in 1975. From 1985 until 1992, he served as director of church relations for SPU. After working for East Gates Ministries, he returned to Seattle Pacific in 2000 to teach in the area of educational ministry.

Smyth has led a Thursday evening men’s discipleship group of SPU students for almost three decades. Named the 2003 Professor of the Year at SPU, he has taught courses in Christian Discipleship, Small Group Dynamics, and Christian Formation, all of which are known for their student engagement and rigor.

In the coming years, he and his wife, Ellen, plan to travel and visit their children. He will continue to speak in various venues and maintain his mentoring and discipleship ministries as opportunities arise.

Steve Rabb ’86
Saturday, August 6, 2016, at 8 a.m.

To Dr. Ed Smyth: Ed, I just read of your retirement. It’s too early if the picture they posted in the article is current. It’s been a bit since we’ve connected, but please know that my time as a member of your discipleship group is one of my fondest and most lingering memories of SPU. It was an anchor in an otherwise &dlquo;drifting” experience.

I don’t know if things have changed but at the time, the SPU religion department held pride in breaking down the “elementary” beliefs of students with the idea that an intellectual faith was something to be prized. Though entering SPU as a 23-year-old freshman, I was a baby Christian, born into the faith through the simple call of Jesus, &dlquo;Come and I will give you rest.” That was not good enough for authentic faith once I came to SPU — that is, until I met you. It’s not that the others didn’t care it’s that they didn’t carry a balance of nurturing the soul while nurturning the mind. I’m thankful for you and I would have to add Dr. Dan Berg as well, that during that time, you did both. ...

Well, Ed, congratulations to you and Ellen for a career of servant leadership. You were really my first example of what that looked like and I’ve spent my career trying to embrace it. I love you and hope these next many years continue to fill you the joy and peace of our Father’s presence.

Sincerely, Steve Rabb

Want to send your former professor a note of congratulations on his or her retirement? Send it to us through this moderated bulletin board and we’ll post it here!