Next few years, full of goodbyes

As the semester quickly comes to an end, and with the spring months not far on the horizon, Castleton State College and Leavenworth Hall will soon need to gather memories and bid farewell to a few prominent professors.
Professor Tom Conroy will be making his graceful departure this December, leaving behind 22 Castleton years, a notorious cell phone basket and the long commute from Middlebury to campus.
“I’m ready to move on,” Conroy said of moving from Vermont to Rhode Island. “Of course I’ll miss it; miss the students and my colleagues, miss the experiences. But I’m ready.”
Conroy’s move to Rhode Island was fueled by family, friends and a passion for hitting the open, frigid water on a surfboard. “I like to surf,” he says simply, kindly dismissing further explanation.
Although Conroy is mentally prepared to leave, many students, along with former students, will feel nothing but loneliness where he once stood.
Professor Stephanie Wilson was a student of Conroy’s before working at Castleton herself, and she will always feel in debt to her favorite former professor.
“He is authoritative and brilliant,” Wilson says fondly. “He helped shape who I am and my career.” Wilson recalls taking a class where he subscribed each of his students to Newsweek. “I felt like such an adult,” she said, “and I still subscribe to it because of him.”
Barely a stone’s throw away from Conroy’s neat and practical office is the slightly more colorful office of Roy Vestrich. Vestrich is another professor soon to be missed within with walls of Leavenworth.
Vestrich has served the classrooms of Castleton with a solid 26 years of dedication, although some of that time was spent traveling the world with his students.
“I’m an artist,” he said, the walls behind him full of paintings and photographs. “I love adventure and risk, and I love to create a different classroom setting with that in mind.”
Vestrich has been an active supporter and contributor to the study abroad programs offered on campus, spending time with students in London every year.
“He really helped us get settled in to the new and unfamiliar territory,” remembers Emma Rudnick, a student who spent a spring semester in London. “It was nice to have him around while we figured our lives out there.”
Vestrich plans to travel and fire up his old sailboat, along with focusing more closely on his creative scriptwriting, when he retires from Castleton. But a part of him will truly miss his everyday routine here. Having turned down a chance to work for Warner Brothers in the past in order to continue working with students, he will miss the reward of “seeing students inspired.”
Two floors up from the bustling basement of the Leavenworth Communication Department is professor Bill Kuehn’s office, literally scattered with photos of students and shelves bent with the weight of a hefty book collection.
If professor Kuehn isn’t teaching a research class on sociology, or analyzing the demographics of roadside trash, he is most likely hitting the slopes at Killington. And when he retires in May after 43 years at Castleton, he plans to do a lot more skiing.
“I love to ski,” said the New Jersey native, who was introduced to the sport by a former student who encouraged him to give it a try, despite being a diehard cross country skier. He did, and has never regretted it.
“Everything we do in life builds character,” said Kuehn. “Students have showed me that, teaching here has been a journey.”
 Kuehn is greatly anticipating his retirement, excited to travel with his wife, who retired two years ago, and continue on with their “next journey.”
However, Kuehn will not be able to let the students of Castleton go that easily. Every year, Kuehn has dedicated his time and effort to his First Year Seminar students. He takes them along the back roads of Lake Champlain to clean up and analyze litter. At first, students are always apprehensive about spending class time picking up someone else’s trash. But with time, they realize it’s much more than that.
“It’s a bonding experience for them,” Kuehn says. “We’re learning about people, the land and each other.”
His students agree, saying Kuehn brought a new light to the idea of learning and interacting, and that analyzing people and their actions can be “truly fascinating.”
With a combined total of 91 years at Castleton State College, these professors will not simply slip away from the minds and lives of the people around them, and each one of them will be back from time to time either for a visit or part-time teaching.
“You’ll see me here,” said Conroy. “I’m always optimistic about teaching, and students here are my biggest accomplishment.”