Graduation always seems to be the happiest day of the year and yet in the halls of Leavenworth, graduation is a sour subject. After 40 years teaching at Castleton, communication professor Bob Gershon will be retiring after commencement.
But as one door closes, another must open. For the 2017-2018 academic year the classes taught by Gershon for decades will instead be led by a new professor in the department.
“We have a really exciting faculty member coming in, Natasha Ngiaza,” said Michael Talbott, Chair of the Communication Department.
Ngaiza, who holds a masters degree in fine arts from Temple University, currently teaches at Middlebury College.
“She’s an accomplished filmmaker herself. She has made several short films that have won awards and played at festivals. She teaches “Sight and Sound I,” which is (Middlebury’s) equivalent of “Introduction to Video and Filmmaking,” said Talbott.
At this point, Ngaiza has only been courted to teach for the next academic year. A search for Gershon’s permanent replacement beginning at the start of next year. Though Ngaiza would be welcome to apply for the permanent position, her year of teaching at Castleton would not automatically get her the job.
“Our plan is to initiate a traditional search, a nation search, in the fall,” said Talbott.
The process would take up the entirety of the 2017-2018 academic year. Potential replacements would start coming to campus during spring 2018 with the goal of finding someone to permanently fill the position for the beginning of fall 2018.
While the process to search for Gerson’s replacement has yet to even formally begin, some students already have strong feelings about what to look for in new faculty members.
“I don’t know if it matters so much whether they choose someone with a (terminal) degree or who has experience in making films. What matters most is how they get along with their students,” said Ryan Stone, a communication student.
“I’ve taken a bunch of classes with Bob, 5 or 6, and he has a unique way of explaining things and getting people to be interested in what they do. The way he interacts with his students would be irreplaceable,” said Briana Bocelli, a communication student who will take classes with Ngaiza next year.
“What makes Bob a good teacher is his personality, and that’s hard to replicate. If somebody has as much heart and passion, if someone has experienced a life enough to not take crap from students, then maybe,” said Jimmy Britt, a graduating senior.
It’s not just his students and fellow faculty who think replacing Gershon’s personality will be the most difficult part.
“He’s one of the few faculty that, whenever I email him, I always get a response and he does it cheerfully. He’s always cheerful. You can feel his smile when he responds to you,” said Renee Beaupre-White, Director of Career Services.
Whoever is chosen to permanently fill the position next year will have some big shoes to fill and hundreds of hearts and minds to win over.
But at the end of the day, one thing is clear to every single person who is asked about the search; Gershon is irreplaceable.