The Senior Distinguished Faculty Award is given each spring to a full professor. Spring, of course, is a good time to celebrate. All around the quad this morning, there are wonders of spring—the deep green of the grass, the bright colors in the tulips and wildflowers, even the threat of spring rain. Not all that long ago, however, this quad was nearly waist-high in snow. For months students and faculty tramped along the sidewalks, persevering through the long season of icy winds, even as we looked forward to the day when the fruits of the soil would no longer be buried by the mantle of winter.
The recipient of this year’s Senior Distinguished Faculty Award is a person who loves the wonders of the springtime soil. As one of her colleagues likes to remark, she has ten green thumbs. The soil of her own home is a mosaic of plants, both the subtle and the bold. She has, as well, a love for the language that captures the rhythms of life close to the earth, and she has introduced many students to the poetry of New England, the stories of Irish hillsides, or the novels about Russian winters. But she also has a gift for seeing the seeds of promise that sometimes lie buried with students, eager for a little sunlight. Years ago, at a time when it was less common to find champions of women’s causes at Christian colleges, she was a steady source of encouragement and inspiration to women students, nurturing their dreams, pruning fears, planting confidence—and serving them oatmeal. Years ago, at a time when Gordon was a very young liberal arts college, she saw seeds of promise in the ideal of freedom—in the premise that the college did not have to be engulfed in the legalisms that often beset the evangelical church but could encourage inquiry and artistic courage. At a time when many in the church shied away from the arts, she took her students to the theatre, sponsored plays on campus (like the nation's collegiate debut of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible) and threw considerable support behind the College’s emerging music program. And each year, throughout her career, she has remained an avid student of literature, continually widening our knowledge of the best new fiction and the newest variations in literary theory.
This weekend, there are several hundred colleges and universities in this nation holding Commencement ceremonies and thousands and thousands of faculty members walking in processional regalia. There are very, very few colleges, however, that can boast of any faculty members who are completing their fifth decade of service to a single institution. Today, we honor a woman who came to Gordon fifty years ago, the year the College moved to Wenham, when this polo field became a quad and a young institution was just replanted. Without a doubt, the person we honor has been one of the faculty members most responsible for shaping the ethos and the values of Gordon College.
So, in commemoration of the fifty winters and springs she has walked with us on this campus, and in deep appreciation for the many ways she has uncovered and cultivated the hopes of students and colleagues, I am delighted to present this year’s Senior Distinguished Faculty Award to professor of English Dr. Ann Ferguson.