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Excellence, mentoring and friendship – a tribute to the class of 2020 retiring faculty

John S. Armstrong carried an “advisor to the stars” business card. Carolyn Watson had a knack for getting more out of her students than they thought possible. And Charlie DeLancey was known to brag in the pages of the Paladin student newspaper about the caliber of Furman students.

They are just a few of the eight Furman faculty members who retired in 2020, but all eight have left a legacy of mentoring, friendship and academic excellence. And all have challenged and inspired generations of students.

Because the pandemic prevented them from being recognized during a special luncheon, their Furman colleagues offer these tributes to the remarkable contributions of the class of 2020 retiring faculty:

John Armstrong.

John S. Armstrong, Associate Professor of Communication Studies Emeritus

“Around the Communication Studies Department, Dr. John S. Armstrong was reputed to be Advisor to the Stars. We’re not sure the source of this appellation, but the title reflects John’s immense passion for advising and mentoring students. As alumna Molly Gunson Hallman noted, ‘He always kept a business card on him that said ‘Advisor to the Stars’ and I know he truly believed this. It’s how he treated every student that stepped into his classroom and office. Each student was a star who had unique talents that Dr. Armstrong worked hard to help us recognize and polish. While I won’t remember the specific classes I had with Dr. Armstrong, I will remember how he made students feel, and what he pushed us to accomplish.’ And his colleagues feel the same about his generosity and care. One faculty member put it this way: ‘Behind the scenes he corralled people selflessly as he delighted in seeing everyone in the department succeed.’”

– John McArthur, chair, communication studies

“He leaves a strong legacy, having established an outstanding media studies program that is centered on the tenets of civic engagement and the role of media in our democratic processes – a crucial focus for communication studies, now more than ever.”

– Cynthia King, professor of communication studies

Michael Brodeur.

Michael Brodeur, Associate Professor of Art Emeritus

“In his 17 years at Furman, Michael Brodeur taught much more than painting and drawing. He taught what it meant to look closely and honestly; he taught what it meant to work hard; he taught what it meant to fail and to begin again. And he did it all without pontificating or moralizing – he simply worked. Michael’s teaching style was a master lesson in being the “guide from the side,” even as his work made it clear that we were in the presence of a sage. Michael worked alongside his students in the studio so they could see what they should be trying to do and how. Anyone who knows Michael´s work knows the structural precision of his paintings and how he makes color sing. He skillfully coupled high expectations for his students with a humility and encouraging demeanor that made the impossible seem more possible. That same spirit infused his quiet leadership in the department, while providing the perfect stealth launching pad for his quick wit and fantastically humorous insights.”

– Ross McClain, chair, art

“Michael was exacting – no wait, that isn’t really fair – he was as exacting as he thought you wanted him to be, and he measured all his students that way, which meant he needed to know them, what they wanted, what they could stand.”

– Jane Chew, professor of modern languages and literatures emerita

Charles DeLancey.

Charles A. DeLancey, Associate Professor of Communication Studies Emeritus

“When Dr. Charlie DeLancey arrived at Furman in 1981, Dean Crabtree remarked that Delancey had ‘excellent credentials and considerable enthusiasm for the program.’ In the years that followed, Charlie reinvigorated Furman’s speech courses and launched a successful debate team, one that traveled around the nation to the major NCAA schools around the country. At least twice, he hosted the British Debate Team on Furman’s campus. By 1996, Charlie was one of the founding members of the Communication Studies department. His courses expanded from Speech and Public Advocacy to include Interpersonal, Organizational, and Small Group Communication.

A review of news clippings from the Paladin newspapers of the 1980s reveals that Dr. DeLancey was always bragging about the caliber of Furman students. He believed in debate’s potential because of Furman students’ potential. He believed in speech communication’s potential because of Furman students’ potential. Like the produce, gourds, and amaryllis he so carefully tended in his impressive gardens, Dr. DeLancey carefully tended his students over the years, growing a following from a couple of speech students in 1981 to over 200 majors a year in 2020. As one colleague recalls fondly, ‘We all felt special each day of work because Dr. Delancey was in our midst.’ Dr. Delancey’s caring smile, slow questions, and intense support for Furman students has made all the difference.”

– Brandon Inabinet, associate professor of communication studies

Daniel Koppelman.

Daniel Koppelman,  Professor of Music Emeritus

“Winner of the Alester G. Furman, Jr. and Janie Earl Furman Meritorious Teaching Award in 2011, he is known as an excellent teacher and mentor to the students. He has twice been awarded Phi Mu Alpha’s Orpheus Award – an honor voted by the students. As one student wrote, ‘He genuinely has a passion and a love for the field that he is in and anyone can obviously see that in the way he teaches. If you work in his class and are genuinely on top of things, you will do well. I love Koppelmeister!’ Dan is equally admired by the faculty.”

– Hugh Floyd, chair, music

“Dan is an accomplished pianist, skilled improviser, expert teacher and consummate academic. His recitals were surprising and delightful, highlighting his interests in electroacoustic music and live sampling. Dan helped design Furman’s theory/composition curriculum, which he supported enthusiastically throughout his career.”

– Mark Kilstofte, professor of music, composition and theory

Ty Tessitore.

Aristide (Ty) Tessitore, Jane Gage Hipp Professor of Western and American Political Thought Emeritus

“Aristide (Ty) Tessitore is a remarkable scholar, teacher, mentor and friend. His career represents a lifetime commitment to engaging the mind and the heart in discovering, most especially, the virtuous life. In 1992, he earned a Ph.D. with distinction in Political Science from Boston College, the same year he joined Furman’s Department of Political Science. A highly respected scholar of political thought, Ty published two books on Aristotle and over 35 articles and book reviews in some of the most prominent journals in the field of political science.  As a professor, Ty had high expectations of his students and they responded by rising to meet them. Though demanding in the classroom, students knew he cared about them and he had their admiration and respect. He was a leader in moving Furman’s curriculum and academic calendar forward into the new millennium and he left a lasting legacy at the university through his co-creation and directorship of the Tocqueville Program.”

– Liz Smith, chair, politics and international affairs

“Ty embodies the Furman ideal: captivating teacher, renowned scholar, faithful mentor. A student of Greek political philosophy – particularly Aristotle – he introduced a generation of Paladins to questions raised in Athens without capping the springs of faith in Jerusalem and Rome.”

– Brent Nelsen, professor of politics and international affairs

Bill Ranson.

Bill Ranson, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Emeritus

Bill Ranson’s faculty profile starts like this: ‘Sustaining the Earth system for current and future inhabitants since 1979’. One cannot capture the essence of Bill better than that. A native of Charlotte, NC and a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill, Bill came to Furman right after completing his PhD from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Furman did well in attracting this “rock” star to join the then Department of Geology. Bill has been instrumental in slowly (actual dating indicates 4.1 decades) and steadily altering the face of the Geology department, much like the geological processes he studies, to what is now the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Sustainability Sciences. A true and passionate field geologist, Bill left no stones unseen (using his worn-out hand lens) in the Upstate as he wandered around looking for anything that looked like an outcrop to expose it to the world through the Geologic Maps he published. Bill’s tireless work over his career at Furman has taken us from being an environmentally friendly and caring campus to a true leader in Sustainability.”

– Suresh Muthukrishnan, chair of earth, environmental, and sustainability sciences

“Bill was an amazing mentor to me when I was a beginning faculty member. His passion for teaching and love of the students was an inspiration…and so is his love of field geology and enjoyment of camping!”

– Brannon Andersen, professor of earth, environmental, and sustainability sciences

David Spear.

David Spear, William E. Leverette Jr. Professor of History Emeritus

“David Spear taught at Furman from 1982 to 2020. Over those 38 years, he was a distinguished scholar of medieval history with an international reputation as one of the foremost experts on the Norman clergy of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, a passionate teacher of European history known for his engaging classroom presence and always popular classes on the Fall of Rome and the Crusades, a wise advisor and caring mentor to countless students and faculty, a selfless contributor of service to the department, university, and Ancient Greek and Roman Studies minor, and an unusually active university citizen known for his involvement in many language and bibliographic groups on campus. David was also active in a variety of study away programs having led trips to the British Isles, ‘Byzantium’ (Italy, the Balkans, and Turkey), the European Union, and Brussels. Most of all, David was always known as a defender of the liberal arts faith, a wonderful person who always had time for his friends and colleagues, and as an award-winning teacher who is fondly remembered by generations of Furman students.”

– Lane Harris, chair, history

“David is in many ways the quintessential liberal arts professor. He is an expert on ancient and medieval history, a master of using images and texts to bring these periods to life, and a teacher who combines intellectual passion and personal warmth.”

– John Barrington, professor of history

Carolyn Watson.

Carolyn Watson, Professor of Art Emerita

“Carolyn Watson came to Furman in the fall of 1989 as our first full-time Art Historian. Little did anyone know that behind her kind, thoughtful, and generous nature lurked a writing fanatic who would demand academic rigor with an uncanny ability to get more out of most students than they knew they had in them. Before her exams, students roamed the halls with fists full of index cards, mumbling names, dates, movements, underlaying hidden meanings, attributions of various saints and asking themselves what sly thing she would slide into the test that would befuddle them. After studying with Dr. Watson, many alumni considered graduate school a breeze. When she was not teaching she was burning the midnight oil over materials for her books on medieval manuscripts. The first was published to high acclaim and the second is in the final stages. She did all of this while raising a family with three kids with Randy as her ardent supporter.”

– Ross McClain, chair, art

“Carolyn will be missed as a kindly person, a wonderful colleague, a prodigious teacher and scholar and most of all, as a friend.”

– Bob Chance, professor of art




Last updated May 5, 2021
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