There is a member of the Colby water polo team who, in many ways, is just like all the others: he swims laps every day, he cheers on his team whether it’s winning or losing, and he puts in extra hours when a match is coming up.
There is one difference, though: his Speedo has “Le Professeur” emblazoned on it. But that doesn’t make the students on the team treat Professor Kerill O’Neill of the Classics Department any differently. “He’s a professor, so I can’t hurt him,” said James Hootsman ’13. “But once he nudges you, you think, ‘Game On!’ If he wants a fight, I’ll give him a fight. … He’s amazing at water polo.”
This is not the only example of how faculty members participate in campus life in ways other than teaching. For many professors, Colby is not just a place of work but of play. After their teaching and researching, many professors put aside the books and jump right into learning alongside students in pursuit of activities completely unrelated to their professional fields.
Sociology and African-American Studies Professor Cheryl Townsend Gilkes shares her love of gospel music on her own radio show every Wednesday over Colby’s WMHB radio waves. Students can be seen playing pick-up soccer with History Professor Raffael Scheck or settling a friendly rivalry on the squash courts with Government Professor Kenneth Rodman. Even President William D. Adams got down on his knees for his role as the fairy godmother in the student-produced show Grease.
“It was kind of weird at first,” said Hayley Didrickson ’11, the choreographer, about working with Adams. But she quickly got used to it. “He was good to work with and willing to put himself out there. He fully threw himself into it and did everything I asked him to,” she said. “He seemed more real to us because he wanted to be involved.”
Even though the initial out-of-classroom interaction might be awkward for students, the casual relationships that develop between students and professors can run deep. Case in point: Students of color and their friends who mingle with faculty members from a wide variety of departments at informal venues like local restaurants, barbecues, and movie theaters as part of the Faculty Allies program also team up with professors to tackle issues like reforming the COOT experience for minority students. “We’re quite close and keep in touch years after [they graduate],” said Russian Professor Julie de Sherbinin.