Professors retire after decades of service to the GW community

The end of the spring semester is normally a time to celebrate the departure of graduating students, yet this is also a time to commemorate professors retiring from their lives in academia at GW. For several of this year’s retiring professors – namely John Ziolkowski and Gregory Ludlow – the decision to step down means an end to decades of scholarly work in the GW community.

Professor of classics John Ziolkowski has been teaching at GW for 40 years, a tenure longer than that of outgoing University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

Ziolkowski was chairman of the classics department for 20 years and has taught courses in Latin and Greek as well as courses in translation, medical terminology and even one about Parisian classical influence on Washington.

Ziolkowski said he has seen GW change both physically and academically in his long tenure with the commuter school turned up-and-coming, top-notch research university.

“When I came, Quigley’s was a campus drug store, a place to get a malt or milkshake,” Ziolkowski said. “The places where people congregate have (changed dramatically) over time.”

Over the decades, Ziolkowski saw GW’s tremendous growth firsthand, from rapid construction of classroom and administrative buildings to the dramatic increase in the size of the faculty.

“I’ve enjoyed the changes since I’ve been here and the associations I’ve had with faculty and students over the years,” Ziolkowski said.

Although he has agreed to teach part time next year since his departure leaves the classics department understaffed, Ziolkowski and his wife are considering a move to the Southwest. Ziolkowski said he is fortunate to have spent so long in such an exciting city.

“I feel very lucky to have spent 40 years in the same kind of job,” Ziolkowski said. “I’ve enjoyed all the contacts I’ve made and I think it’s a very invigorating environment.”

As for the future of GW, Ziolkowski is excited to see Marguerite Barratt, the recently appointed dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Science, and University President-elect Stephen Knapp begin their careers at the University.

“I was very impressed (with Knapp) and the normal shift in emphasis to academic life,” Ziolkowski said.

Like Ziolkowski, retiring professor Gregory Ludlow said the biggest changes at GW have been the physical aspects. Ludlow said he saw the expansion of campus through the construction of Gelman Library, Smith Center, Lerner Health and Wellness Center, the School of Media and Public Affairs building, Academic Center and Duques Hall and the acquisition of the Mount Vernon Campus.

Ludlow is a professor of International Affairs and French who grew up in London during World War II. He later served in the British Army and spent time in France, Canada and New York before coming to GW as a tenure-track assistant professor in 1972.

At GW, Ludlow was assistant dean of CCAS and director of the study abroad program. He sent about 3,000 students to every corner of the world over a 10-year period.

Academically, Ludlow said he believes the standards at GW have been and still are on a steady incline.

“Higher standards in the acceptance of entering student classes and in the recruitment of junior, tenure-track faculty have also played an important role in making GW a more prestigious teaching and research institution, both nationally and internationally,” Ludlow said.

After this year, Ludlow said he plans to keep reading and writing, devote more time to volunteer work, travel and try his hand at cooking “beyond the microwave stage.”

But also like Ziolkowski, Ludlow appreciates the city and the cosmopolitan atmosphere of GW, where “just a few blocks from campus one can rub shoulders with people from all walks of life and from different cultures.”

He added, “True education should also have a strong social or cultural dimension.”

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