Volume 92, Issue 18

Friday, October 2, 1998

homing in


"Prof"iting from experience

Graphic by Luke Rundle

By Jael Lodge
Gazette Staff

Some people just can't get enough of a good thing. Either that or they're suckers for punishment. These people are commonly known on campus as "profs."

Why do they do this? Although many from time to time may have asked themselves the very same question, all seem to have their own reasons for returning to Western.

"When I came back from overseas I was asked to teach," says Spanish professor Robert Shervill, who received his degree in French and German in 1942. "I only had a [bachelor of arts] at the time and I was going to become a high school teacher."

Including the time spent doing his undergraduate degree, Shervill spent almost 50 years of his life on campus. "I loved the kids – it was marvellous."

The Shervill family has a strong Western tradition, as three of Shervill's children have also attended Western. "We're a Western group, no doubt about that," he says. "I guess you could call it purple and proud."

Although Shervill retired in 1984, he has remained in London, where he has seen many changes to both the city and university. "There were about four major buildings when I came to campus in 1936," he says. He also points to a major change to the city of London – the evacuation of the core of the city to the suburbs.

While the geography of the city has greatly changed, there are those that would argue that other things haven't. Manina Jones, a professor of English who completed both her bachelor and masters degrees in English at Western from 1980 to 1985, notes there have not been many changes in the attitudes of the student body academically. "The culture of the departments stay remarkably the same."

Some who have returned to Western have done so unexpectedly. "When I was in the States, Western was the last place I thought I'd end up in," points out professor of plant sciences Norm Huner (Biochemistry BSc '71, MSc '75) who has taught and done research in Western's plant sciences department since 1980. "At that time academic positions were hard to find in Canada."

Huner points out a major part of the sciences is to travel and do research internationally. "The likelihood of getting back to Western is slim. We've enjoyed getting back here – both professionally and for my family."

There have been changes to the university since Huner's student days. "It's much more cosmopolitan than in the '60s," he says, referring to both the city and the university. One of the main changes to the university, he notes, is its size. "There were only 6,000 or 7,000 students here in the late '60s."

Whether or not a student later returns as a prof seems to be a matter of fate as much as attempt. History department chair Tom Sea says whether or not a job candidate has attended Western holds no bearing in the hiring process. "We try to recruit the best people for the job."

Sea notes that many who have recently completed their degrees don't wish to stay at Western and instead gain experience elsewhere.

"I don't think it's a huge choice," says Theresa Hubel, English professor at Huron College, citing the lack of university posts available in Canada. Hubel, who completed her PhD in English at Western in 1992, spent time teaching on the East Coast before returning to Western last year. "I'm happy to be here and am especially fortunate to get a job that I like so much."

Western's ability to remain a world class facility through the millennium depends on its ability to bring in top level academics. It is also important that those who come to teach care about the university and the city where the tradition of Western stays strong in today's changing times.

To Contact The Focus Department: gazette.focus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998