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Empathy, curiosity and excellence – A tribute to the class of 2021 retiring faculty

Last updated May 12, 2021

By Sarita Chourey

From the famous warmth and mentoring of Lloyd Benson to the study away adventures of Joe Pollard to the empathy and vision of Cherie Maiden, one of Furman’s first two Black faculty members, the seven members of the class of 2021 retiring faculty leave a deep and lasting impact.

Each of them will be remembered with fondness and admiration by their colleagues. And each have challenged generations of students to become engaged members of society and to pursue lives of purpose.

Because the pandemic prevented them from being recognized during a special luncheon this year, members of the Furman faculty offer the class of 2021 retiring faculty the following tributes:

Thomas Joiner.

Thomas Joiner, Professor of Music

“Thomas Joiner has worked as a conductor, violinist, chamber player, and educator across the globe. At Furman, he conducted the Furman Symphony Orchestra in orchestral, operatic, and oratorio performances each year and taught violin. He also served as the music director and conductor of the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra (N.C.).  For more than three decades, Joiner served as a member of the artist-faculty of the Brevard Music Center (N.C.), as  the William J. Pendergrast, Sr. Artist Chair and concertmaster of the Brevard Music Festival Orchestra. In 2009, Joiner and his wife, violist Anna Barbrey Joiner, received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Brevard Music Center. Joiner has performed with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the Louisville Orchestra. A proud graduate of Furman, He previously taught at the University of Georgia School of Music, and served as the South Carolina president of the American String Teachers Association and a member of the national board of directors of the Conductors Guild. As an artistic ambassador for the United States Information Agency, Joiner presented recitals with pianist Douglas Weeks during a five-week tour of western Africa and the Middle East. In 2016, he recorded a CD with Jan Mulder and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London.”

– Hugh Floyd, chair, Department of Music

“Tom has always been an active performer, both as a violinist and as a conductor. For many years he taught and performed at the well-known Brevard Music Center and was music director of the Hendersonville Symphony. One particularly memorable concert he conducted at Furman included a Beethoven symphony, a concert piece by Debussy featuring faculty clarinet colleague Cecelia Kang, and music from Star Wars, complete with a visit from Darth Vader!”

– Christopher Hutton, professor of music and chair of the faculty

Susan D’Amato.

Susan Smart D’Amato, Professor of Physics

“Throughout her career, Susan D’Amato has been the ‘heart’ of our department and a living embodiment of The Furman Advantage.  She grew up at Furman: her father, Jim Smart, was a Furman professor, Susan began her collegiate path here, and she returned as a professor.  Susan has passionately shared her Furman spirit with students, staff and faculty colleagues through a dedicated career of education, mentoring, service and stewardship. Susan has a knack for knowing where her attention is needed in our community. A couple of years after arriving at Furman, she resurrected our chapter of the Sigma Pi Sigma Honor Society (dormant from 1932 to 1985) so we could recognize student achievement in physics.  She aided in bringing the heavens down to our students by acquiring NSF funding to build our observatories. She has been a stalwart advocate for women in science, specifically in physics. And recently, she served as an advisor in the Year 1 & 2 Pathways pilot project. We were excited when she won the Meritorious Advising Award in 2019. She deserves so much more. Susan has left an indelible mark upon us that will never fade. She is always welcome to return ‘home’ whenever she wants!”

– David Moffett, chair, Department of Physics

“Susan embodies compassion, commitment and curiosity. Her genuine love of ideas, deep empathy for others, and entrenched work ethic have made her an impactful mentor, teacher and university administrator, all roles she has filled magnificently in her career at Furman.”

– Linda Bartlett, professor of Spanish

Lloyd Benson.

Lloyd Benson, Walter Kenneth Mattison Professor of History

“T. Lloyd Benson, the Walter Kenneth Mattison Professor of History, joined Furman in 1990. Over the last thirty-one years, he has published numerous scholarly works on pre-Civil War American history, had a deep and abiding interest in the application of digital technology to the study of history, incorporated the use of geographic information systems in his undergraduate teaching, and was an early advocate for the Internet as an open repository of historical sources with his several websites dedicated to late antebellum newspaper editorials and other nineteenth century documents. For his innovative teaching, Lloyd was named Association of Furman Students’ Faculty Member of the Year (1994), received the Alester G. and Janie Earle Furman Award for Meritorious Teaching (1998), and was awarded the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities’ Teacher of the Year Award (2009). Lloyd is also widely known across campus as an exceptionally caring and thoughtful mentor and advisor to his colleagues and students, as a fount of positivity to all and as an empathetic advocate for open conversation about any conflict. Lloyd has thus passionately considered and practiced new pedagogical ideas and lived out what it means to be a teacher-scholar at Furman.”

– Lane Harris, chair, Department of History

“Lloyd Benson brings rays of warm sunshine wherever he goes and no matter the challenges he faces. The enthusiasm he exudes for his students and teaching about the Civil War era is infectious and speaks to the very best qualities of a Furman education.”

– Marian Strobel, William Montgomery Burnett Professor of History

Cherie Maiden.

Cherie Maiden, Lois Aileen Coggins Professor of French

“In 1983, Dr. Cherie Maiden accepted Furman’s invitation to join the faculty as an assistant professor. Ever since, she has modeled to the Furman community what it means to be truly invitational. Kind, gracious and ever patient, Cherie exudes a warm classroom presence that invites students to discover the beauty of the language, literature and culture she loves so deeply. Thanks to a carefully cultivated professional network, she has consistently facilitated cultural and intellectual exchange at Furman outside the classroom, inviting to campus countless authors and other luminaries from places such as Cameroon, Senegal and South Africa. A devoted study away director, she has embraced every chance to introduce her students to life in France, and to support them on that exciting, challenging journey. And as one of the first two Black faculty at Furman, Cherie’s extraordinary mentorship of Furman’s Black students inspired them to establish an award in her honor in 1993. In 2020, the university honored this original award by renaming the Meritorious Award for Diversity & Inclusion the Maiden Invitational Award, evidence that Cherie’s indelible legacy of open-heartedly welcoming students and colleagues into our community will remain long after her well-earned retirement.”

– Linda Bartlett, chair, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

“Everyone who knows Cherie can testify to her warmth, her empathy, her engagement with the world around her. Cherie can move mountains without blowing them up, and that has made her an invaluable resource at Furman.”

– Jane Chew, professor of German emerita

Robert Chance.

Bob Chance, Professor of Art

“Potter, ceramicist, sculptor, glassblower, musician, craftsman and artist – Professor Bob Chance is retiring after teaching 47 years, including a notable 33 years at Furman. Bob boasts graduates who have become curators, potters, patrons, aficionados, teachers, ne’er do wells, entrepreneurs, golfers, designers, doctors, nurses and conscious people who know the value of art in living an intentional life. The legacy of any art professor is the students who continue on to make art an integral part of their lives – but the lessons found by working with clay have meaning for all of us. With that in mind, we share his life lessons with clay:

  1. Never quarrel with your materials; work with them. Clay is an absolutely forgiving material, until it’s not. But you can always begin again. The final reckoning comes later, and it involves fire.
  2. Clay is of the earth and she has her own rhythm. Digging, wedging, throwing, shaping, drying, bisquing, glazing, firing, the processes bring together all the elements: earth, air, water, and fire. The potter must observe and respect them. Everything requires timing, or rather, paying attention.
  3. We are made of clay. This lesson is simply about humility and gratitude. Practice both until you shine.

Both students and colleagues are richer for sharing in Bob’s world. We are grateful to have learned patience, ambition, humor, and love while spending time in the studio with him. Bob leaves more than a footprint on Furman, more than a legacy, his retirement leaves us all bereft. Thankfully, it’s not a far trek to the golf course… .”

– Ross McClain, chair of the Department of Art

Joe Pollard.

Joe Pollard, Rose J. Forgione Professor of Biology

“As is true for many faculty by time of their retirement, Joe has worn many hats in his years at Furman, and he stands out for having done all of them so well. In addition to teaching, advising, and supervising student research, Joe served as herbarium curator, building supervisor, handyman, department cruise director, and preparer of cole slaw for our annual senior picnic. Joe provided effective leadership for the department as chair for a decade. In that time, he oversaw the growth of the department, hiring and then mentoring multiple young faculty and helping us navigate a building renovation and expansion.
Although Joe’s professional passion and expertise is botany, he also has a deep reservoir of knowledge of ecology, natural history, human history, geography, and all things Furman. He is a quintessential traveler, and through his teaching and research endeavors, he has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America.
Joe, we wish you all the best in your retirement. We know we’ll keep in touch in the coming years, and we look forward to sharing more life stories and good puns. So, this isn’t ‘goodbye’ – just a time for reflection and to say ‘thank you.’”
– Greg Lewis, chair, Department of Biology

“When I arrived at Furman in 2012, Joe was incredibly kind, welcoming, and patient…  I aspire to be the kind of departmental citizen, mentor, and friend that you have always been to all of us.”

– Allison Roark, Herman N. Hipp Associate Professor of Biology

Steve Richardson.

Steve Richardson ’77, Associate Librarian

“Following in the footsteps of three generations of his family, Steve Richardson graduated from Furman in 1977. He completed his master’s in library science at the University of South Carolina in 1982 and joined Furman as the reference and online services librarian in 1986. A year later Steve introduced the campus to digital resources and never looked back! Steve quickly got to know everyone on campus and built close faculty friendships that would last throughout his years at Furman. In his years at Furman Steve coordinated conferences and served on multiple self-study task forces, steering committees, and advisory boards, but his greatest passion has always been assisting students and faculty with research. Steve is so sought-out by students that “Where is Steve?” became a running joke at the Research Assistance desk, and co-workers toyed with the idea of attaching a GPS to him so he could be located in the stacks when needed. Steve’s library colleagues describe him as open, supportive, a Renaissance man, humble, steady, even, gracious, encouraging, smart, respectful, mannerly and kind. His ongoing challenge to students and colleagues is to ‘stay curious.’ Steve, we will miss you!”

– Caroline Mills, director of libraries

“What a joy it always is to work with Steve. He is a Zen master with sources and can somehow seek and summon them even when I don’t know exactly what I am looking for. Steve is rooted in the Upstate, but his knowledge extends all around the world.”

– Joni Tevis, Bennette E. Geer Associate Professor of English


Last updated May 12, 2021
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