Teacher’s Teacher

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Epes retires after a record 48 years.

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by John Syme

Registrar and Professor of Humanities and of German Hansford Epes ’61 retired this summer after a record 48 years on the faculty.

In the beginning, 1957: “I walked onto campus and it just felt right. I didn’t realize at the time I’d spend a huge percentage of my life sitting in Chambers!”

Now his legacies are legion.

“German professor helps colleagues with another foreign language— computer talk!” reads a 1984 Davidsonian headline about Epes’ computing prowess. He led study abroad in Germany and chaired the Department of German and Russian. He counseled Rhodes and Marshall scholarship applicants, directed community theatre, coached College Bowl, and even trekked to California as a Jeopardy! contestant.

He contributed mightily to the college’s governance and strategic thought.

“It is useful periodically to step back and take a look at what you’re doing and why, and to look broadly,” he said. “We’re always in a period like that. Academic institutions are masters of navel-gazing. They are inhabited by a profession that is, or wishes to be, visionary. We are at least wise enough to know that whatever it is we’re doing, we could be doing better.

” Teaching has been paramount. When named registrar in 2000, he said, “I refuse to say I’m no longer a teacher.”

The two college legacies dearest to Epes have defined the Davidson experience for generations of students: the Honor Code and the Humanities Program.

The week after graduation, he ran his own numbers: more than 200 courses taught.

“I like thinking of 48 years—plus four as a student, and only three at grad school—resulting in overlapping on campus every class from ’58 through ’15,” he said. “I figure that’s being on campus with nearly 20,000 students.”

Read More:
Hansford Retires: A Personal Note
Hansford Reminisces: Change at Davidson

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