Retiring faculty reflect on time at GW

In September, for the first time in more than 40 years, the classrooms of the School of Engineering and Applied Science will not be filled with the sound of professor Peter Bock engaging students in discussions of machine intelligence.

After a career at the University spanning 44 years, Bock is retiring at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year. But with several projects still underway, Bock’s plans for retirement are anything but boring.

Bock began his career as a professor with GW in 1967. He arrived fresh from a position where he was in charge of developing orbital and navigation software for NASA’s famous Apollo mission. When the space program ended, Bock was offered a position teaching in the computer science and engineering departments at GW.

Now, decades later, Bock said his work has developed a great deal in the time he spent teaching and working with GW students.

He said that taking a sabbatical to work at the Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing in Germany in 1989 turned his concentration from teaching to research and working with graduate and doctoral students.

“You evolve over a period of 40 years…at that point teaching became less interesting to me than expanding this knowledge of artificial intelligence, and so I switched over to working with doctoral students,” Bock said.

Bock said he is also proud of his role in establishing the University for Information Science and Technology in Macedonia. In 2008, he was appointed by the Macedonian government to chair an international advisory board to establish the university, which is devoted to information technology and incorporating liberal arts with science education.

He said he will spend more time with his growing family, which will soon include a new grandchild, his third.

Speaking about his plans after retirement, Bock said he is somewhat reflective about his time at GW.

“At the end of my career, in the last five years, I asked to go part-time in order to lessen the post-partum impact [of my retirement], and I think that has helped – but I’ll let you know,” Bock said, laughing. “I think that not a great deal is going to change because I really am an intellectual, I’m bookish, that just is what has been important to me.”

Bock is one of 22 professors who were inducted into the University’s Society of the Emeriti in the first annual 2011 Faculty Honors Ceremony April 20.The society was established to maintain ties with retired faculty members.

John Conway and Edward De Fabo were among the professors honored as new Emeriti Faculty.

De Fabo, a research professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, has also dedicated a great part of his career to the University,

Along with his wife, Frances Noonan, De Fabo has spent the past 25 years with the University working primarily on cancer research. Noonan, also a professor in the medical school, will retire in May with De Fabo.

For the past 10 years, De Fabo and Noonan have been heavily involved in researching melanoma skin cancer. They have dedicated much of their respective careers to researching ultraviolet radiation, conducting studies that are unique to the University.

“The next phase of our research would be to identify the actual genes involved in triggering whatever changes are going on in the cell that makes the melanoma and find out which actual genes are involved in triggering the melanoma,” De Fabo said.

De Fabo also plans to keep busy in his retirement. He said he and his wife will continue writing papers on their research and are planning further experimental studies at the National Institutes of Health.

Though the pair spent most of their time at GW in the labs conducting cancer research, De Fabo said they will miss the opportunities they did have to work with students.

“Most of our work was doing this research…we did some teaching as guests, we didn’t have formal teaching positions, but we gave a lot of lectures and mentored a lot of students, and that we will miss,” De Fabo said.

Conway spent a much more abbreviated time with the University than the other, more veteran professors, coming to GW from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville just five years ago. He said that even in this short time, he was able to establish good relationships working with his students.

“I had a lot of contact with undergraduate students and graduate students here, and I hope this continues – in a more limited way of course – but it is certainly one of the things I enjoy,” Conway said.

Before coming to GW, Conway was at the National Science Foundation and on the Board of Trustees at the American Mathematical Society. He has also written nine books.

He said he believes this experience allowed him to impact the field beyond the classroom.

“All of these things allowed me to have some influence in the mathematical profession,” Conway said.

Conway cites his biggest accomplishment at GW as succeeding in getting the department to revise its academic offerings to make the department more competitive. He said he hopes progress will continue after he retires.

“The department needs to expand, improve the quality of its faculty and attract more students,” Conway said.

Conway said he plans to take more time for himself in retirement. He hopes to spend time improving his French at his home in France. However, he also said he hopes to attend seminars at GW while he is in the U.S.


Retiring professors

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Eugene Abravanel…………………………………………………….Professor of Psychology
Jeffrey Anderson……………………………………………………….Professor of Art History
Diane Brewer………………………Associate Professor of Speech and Hearing Science
John Conway………………………………………………………..Professor of Mathematics
Robert Ganz…………………………………………………………………Professor of English
Doroth Holmes………………………………………………Professor of Clinical Psychology
R. Emmet Kennedy……………………………………………Professor of European History
Donald R. Lehman…………………….George Gamow Professor of Theoretical Physics
George Stephens………………………………Professor of Geography and Geosciences
(awarded posthumously)

Law School
Joan Strand……………………………………………………………Professor of Clinical Law

School of Business
Susan Phillips………………………………………………………………Professor of Finance

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Peter Bock…………………………………………………………….Professor of Engineering
Walter Kahn……………………………….Professor of Engineering and Applied Science
Ting Lee…………………………………….Professor of Engineering and Applied Science
C. Dianne Martin…………………………Professor of Engineering and Applied Science
John Sibert…………………………………Professor of Engineering and Applied Science

School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Edward De Fabo…………Research Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine
Willis A. McGill……………Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine and of Pediatrics
Frances Noonan……………………….Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine
Stephen Rosenblum………………………….Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Melvin Stern………………………….Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library
Mary Pankin……………………………………………………………………………….Librarian

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