Centre College faculty share life stories
RELEASED: Mar. 29, 2001
DANVILLE, KY - Charles Vahlkamp was standing in the yard outside his fraternity house in Nashville. The Vanderbilt student was watching the famous Sputnik launch.
An amazing moment for anyone to witness. On that evening in 1957 the plight of history was changed when the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite-an event that marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.
But it changed Vahlkamp's life in a manner that he couldn't have imagined.
Because of the launch, the U.S. Government created the National Defense Education Act, which provided full graduate stipends for those in the sciences and foreign language. And because of that, Vahlkamp became a French professor, which he has taught at Centre College since 1967. He's lived and studied in France, and led groups to study there.
This is just one of the "Life Stories" told recently at Weisiger Theater in the Norton Center for the Arts. "Life Stories" is an annual event sponsored by the Centre Chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), a national leadership organization. Aside from Dr. Vahlkamp, Centre faculty Dr. Lori Hartmann-Mahmud and Judith Pointer also spoke.
Hartmann-Mahmud, a visiting assistant professor of government, talked about how the road less traveled is sometimes the best one to take. From swimming across Lake Michigan to raise money for cancer research, to joining her high school marching band, to trips to West Africa as a member of the Peace Corps-doing things that some don't see as desirable have been big learning experiences and fun, she says.
And like Vahlkamp, Hartmann-Mahmud and Pointer stressed that being able to adapt is important. Vahlkamp was in the hotel business before becoming a French professor. Hartmann-Mahmud originally worked for a company where she did computer programming. Pointer, a visiting assistant professor of art, was a biology major at first. She also had several occupations, including being a secretary and a physical therapy assistant.
Each speaker talked about finding the courage to set out on new journeys and try new things.
"I loved just walking up and down the streets looking at houses at dusk," Pointer said, "and I would just fantasize about painting those houses. But I was too shy to set up an easel. I see students here setting up easels on Lexington Avenue or Broadway. And I wanted to do that so badly but couldn't. I was just petrified at being a bad artist. But I don't know, I had a rich art life in my head. I finally got up enough courage to apply to graduate school. So I knowingly went to graduate school taking out loans, but I trusted my intuition that that was the place I needed to go."
To learn more about these Centre faculty members, go to Centre's faculty web page at http://www.centre.edu/web/academic/faculty/faculty.html
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