Professor Class of ’69
In April 1969, professor Herb Zettl first stepped foot on campus. Zettl and his wife had just arrived from Maryland for his interview at Springfield College. Eager at the age of 28, Zettl was hooked from the very beginning.
“On the way home I remember talking to my wife … and I said, ‘boy, if I get an offer, that’s the place I want to teach,’” recalls Zettl. “I felt very welcomed, and there was a connection. Even though I had another offer by my own alma mater, I came to Springfield.”
During this time, Springfield was going through an expansion. It was building on its strong reputation in physical education and broadening its horizons through the arts and sciences.
“When I was in graduate school at the University of Maryland, I told my friends that I was going to interview at Springfield College. One guy said, ‘That’s a physical education school. They don’t teach history,’” Zettl says, laughing about the memory. “It had a very strong reputation, so in the ’60s the College built on that reputation and added new majors and more faculty. English professors came, religion professors came, and true historians came.”
Zettl made the most of his time at Springfield. He was the first woman’s soccer coach (1980-97), history department chairperson–twice, and member of countless institutional committees.
“I think Herb was very good at a bringing together a department that has multiple disciplines,” says Tom Carty, PhD, chair of the social sciences department. “We have five majors, and he was very good at being even handed and treating the disciplines in a fair and even way.” Among Zettl and the other 19 professors who came to the College that year were Peter Polito and Charlie Redmond, ’68, G’74,—both ready to take on what they didn’t know would be the next five decades.
“The environment that stimulated the interaction across the department, and divisions, [were the] faculty meetings,” says Polito. “It drew all of the faculty members together, so that’s how the faculty was able to deal with issues … We used to have two- or three-hour meetings.”
“We looked to each other for support, encouragement, and to have a good time—which we did,” Redmond recalls with a smile on his face.
When Polito was hired in 1970, the math and sciences department was focusing on building a stronger, more complete program and Polito became an important part of crafting it.
Knowing that many of his physics students also were athletes, Polito became close with the coaches. “I knew who their coaches were, and that they were very concerned about their students. They would follow up and make sure their students were doing well in physics.”
All three professors were hooked by the atmosphere and by the culture of giving back. They became department chairs and committee members. Each was named Distinguished Springfield Professor of Humanics (DSPH).
Polito used his term as distinguished professor to develop a program that represented what drew him to Springfield in the first place: its involvement in community service.
The College marked the 18th anniversary of that program—Humanics in Action Day—this fall. In 1999, also as the DSPH, Polito started raising funds to help students afford tuition. Today, other distinguished professors together raise scholarship funds through annual wine tasting and chili cook off events.
Polito has spent 45 years establishing his legacy at Springfield, and, even as he was walking out the door, he left a final gift: The Peter and Claire Polito Friends In Humanics Scholarship Fund.
“I don’t think you walk away from college and say, ‘Ok, I’ve done my thing, I’ve been here for 45 years, and forget about everything. That’s not who I am,” says Polito.
“His purpose in life was very much the students here, the department, and the College,” says Zenobia Lojewska, professor of math and sciences.
Redmond ’68, G’71, was, and always will be, a product of Springfield. He often jokes that he was dropped off as an undergrad and his parents never picked him up.
“An opportunity opened up to become the head athletic trainer,” states Redmond. “Part of the athletic training position in the fall of 1969 included me doing some teaching; teaching prevention and care of athletic injuries, first aid. I discovered that I really liked teaching.”
Over the years, Redmond helped create an athletic training program at Springfield College that is one of the best. He has led with a student-oriented approach, arranging ice cream socials, bringing his own kids by. He’ll be the first to arrive at an event, and the last to leave, helping faculty members clean up, roll-up posters, trying to save others the trouble.
“When I first got here I was trying to find a place to live, and I asked him to go with me to look at an apartment. He moved me twice,” Mary Barnum, G’90, associate professor of exercise science and sport studies and director of the athletic training program, laughingly recalls. “He thinks nothing of saying ‘so and so needs help, let’s get some people together to help.’” In fact, Barnum wasn’t even sure she wanted to work at the College when she arrived for her interview. “I flew up from North Carolina in the month of January to interview and see the school,” says Barnum. “After sitting down and speaking with Charlie for 30 minutes, I didn’t want to be anywhere else.”
“Charlie’s legacy is the athletic training program at Springfield College,” said Sue Guyer, DPE’03, chair and professor of exercise science and sport studies. “When you ask people at other institutions ‘what’s the gold standard in programs of athletic training,’ Springfield College is it. Because of his leadership, we are seen as the premier athletic training program in the Northeast.”
Redmond’s a regular at the on-campus Dunkin’ Donuts, where he oftentimes strikes up a conversation with a student or co-worker. He’s casual, forgoing “professor Redmond” for “Charlie,” yet everyone respects him. Redmond is a leader in the truest sense, a trait that comes naturally to him, and one that has rubbed off onto his coworkers.
While Redmond may be leaving, Guyer and the rest of the faculty know that he’ll never really be gone.
“This program, and the faculty in this program, will continue to strive for excellence,” says Guyer, “because we know Charlie Redmond’s reputation and legacy are at stake.”
Ending a Legacy
Each year at Springfield College Commencement, retiring faculty members are recognized. This year, the names of some Springfield immortals were called. Their life work, their dedication, their pursuit of the Humanics philosophy were considered. And, while Springfield College continues to boast standout faculty members who are dedicated to their discipline and loyal to their students, the time was a little sad for many from the College community.
“Even if we move away from the area, the College will always be part of who I am,” says Zettl, with a tone of sadness. “None of us are indispensible. We all hopefully left our mark.”