Class Acts

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Jackson, Thornberry, and Palmer retire

By Bill Giduz

Laid end-to-end, the collective teaching tenure of this year’s retiring professors would stretch back before the turn of the 20th century. Fond students and colleagues celebrated their long Davidson careers with testimonial dinners, an exhibition, and establishment of a new scholarship.

Houchens Professor of Art Herb Jackson, the only alumnus among the retirees, enrolled at Davidson as an undergraduate in 1963 and joined the faculty in 1969 as only the second-ever art teacher. He made an immediate impression with his calm, controlled manner. One colleague observed, “He arrived like a  mysterious, bearded figure of artistic bohemianism and flower power, a combination of Zeus and John Lennon.” During his teaching career he exercised the various aspects of his personality to the benefit of his students and the college. Jackson attracted national attention through his masterful expression of paint on canvas, which was showcased in exhibitions as far away as Moscow. He also envisioned and staged a national print competition on campus from 1972 to 1976, and led the charge that resulted in construction of the Belk Visual Art Center in 1993. One friend said, “Like Lefty Driesell in the 1960s, Herb put Davidson on the map.”

Professor of Political Science Mary Thornberry was a vastly outnumbered female member of the faculty when the late Harris Proctor invited her to leave the University of Arizona in 1980 and join the Davidson faculty. She brought with her an expertise to bolster the department’s offerings in constitutional law and civil liberties. In a gracious and careful way, she also led the college to accommodate a broadening demographic base of students. She served as the inaugural chair of the Gender Studies program, created classes in “Politics of Feminism,” and established an interdisciplinary offering in “Politics and Literature.” To honor Thornberry’s dedication to and years of service at Davidson, the Political Science Department has established a scholarship in her name, which will benefit students participating in the Davidson in Washington summer program.

Watson Professor of Psychology Ed Palmer recognized the perils of excessive consumption of televisual media by children long before its platforms expanded beyond television. Joining the faculty in 1970, he focused his scholarship on the phenomenon, and shared his cautionary findings in lectures, public media, visiting appointments to other colleges, professional gatherings, and two books. In fact, he plans to continue his scholarship in retirement by writing another book on televisual media for lay audiences. However, he does not look forward to being away from students. “I’ll miss the vibrance of the students the most. They teach me a lot,” Palmer said, in an office filled with mementos, letters, poems, and photographs. Palmer’s department grew from four to nine members during his tenure, and his colleagues revere him; they created an annual “culture of service” award for psychology

majors and named it after Palmer.

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