Centre mourns Jobson Professor Emerita of English

Posted by Centre News in English, Humanities, News 19 Sep 2014

Crounse Hall circa 1970sA memorial service will be held Saturday, Oct. 4, at 4 p.m. in the Evans-Lively Room of Old Carnegie on the Centre campus.

Centre mourns Carol Emery Bastian, who taught English and humanities at the College from 1976 to 1999. Bastian died at her home in Danville, Ky., on Sept. 16 after a long illness.

She was born in Chicago on Sept. 3, 1930. Her father, a traveling salesman, moved the family many times during her childhood. She was entranced by literature from an early age because it gave her a way to “enter into the experience of imaginary characters, and thus widen [her] human sympathies.” Her mother, a violinist, encouraged her interest in literature and the arts. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Chicago, where she met her husband, Edward G. Bastian, a historian to whom she was married for almost 50 years until his death in 2001. They had three children when Bastian was in her 20s, Julie Winn, a career diplomat, Tim Bastian, a space physicist, and Tony Bastian, a software architect, who survive her. When her children entered their teens, she went back to school at Indiana University, where she received her Ph.D. in English.Carol Bastian

Bastian arrived at Centre a relatively new teacher but a mature person, and the College enthusiastically embraced her talents. She taught a wide range of classes from children’s literature to humanities to Victorian literature. John Kinkade ’95 (now associate professor of English at the College) remembers that “she believed deeply in the power of literature to help us understand how to live,” while Stephanie Dew ’89 (professor of biology and biochemistry & molecular biology), who took Victorian literature just for fun, notes that Bastian was “enthusiastic (at 8:20 in the morning!), insightful and uncompromising. There would be no sloppy scholarship or flimsy analysis in her class.”

David Nahm ’97 was impressed with “how generous she was with her time” because “it takes a special kindness to dedicate your life to listening to the literary thoughts of 20-year-olds.” According to Mary Hall Surface ’80, Bastian was a wonderful “mentor and even better friend.”

Indeed, Bastian’s former students agree on her rigor, her honesty and the way she mentored them after they graduated and even after she retired.

If her students found her challenging, brilliant and kind, her fellow professors added what a wonderful colleague she was. Milton Reigelman, who taught with her in the English program for many years, notes that “Carol was THE ideal colleague, rock firm in her carefully reasoned ideas and beliefs without being dogmatic or bothersome.” Bastian believed that “if you want to have an effect, you’ve got to be involved in the details,” and so she took a leadership role as a professor, chairing both the English program and the Division of Humanities.

But her greatest service to the faculty and to the College at large was leading the movement that established that the faculty, rather than the College Council (a large group consisting of faculty, students, staff and administration) would govern academic affairs at the College. As current Faculty President Bruce K. Johnson of the economics program explains, “her leadership, manifested in her clear articulation of the principles involved, her wise insights and her gravitas, made her the natural choice as our first faculty president in the new governance structure.” A former faculty president, Dan Stroup, praised the “dignity, equanimity and grace with which she set the tone, not only for the office, but for faculty governance.” As a professor of politics, Stroup is keenly aware of “how much an office can be shaped by its first occupant” and remembers her opening meetings by reading a short passage “from a favorite text that always seemed to catch the essence of what we were about.” According to Peggy Richey, a former faculty president and professor of biology, Bastian set a standard “that those of us who followed her have tried to emulate.”

After her retirement, Bastian continued to read and share ideas voraciously, to volunteer, and to mentor and befriend former colleagues, former students, and many, many others. While she wrestled valiantly with an illness that sapped her formidable energy, she managed to be a force in the Danville community and in the lives of her children and grandchildren (Andreas, Paul and Monica, now busy pursuing engineering design, biology or continuing as students).

In her spirit, it is perhaps best to end with a quotation, in this case from William Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality”:

          We will grieve not, rather find
          Strength in what remains behind;
          In the primal sympathy
          Which having been must ever be;
          In the soothing thoughts that spring
          Out of human suffering;
          In the faith that looks through death,
          In years that bring the philosophic mind.

Memorial donations are suggested to the Centre College library or the Boyle County Humane Society.

by Helen Emmitt, Professor of English

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