Retirees Recall a Different CUA

All Twelve 2001-2002 Retirees Were Honored


By Janelle Cowgill


One recent retiree from CUA remembers when manual typewriters seemed like the highest tech at the university. Another recalls “the controversy of the short-sleeved shirts.”


For the first time in its history, Catholic University paid a combined tribute to all 12 faculty and staff retiring during the 2001-2002 academic year. The Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., President, led the March 21 ceremony attended by more than 100 faculty, staff, administrators and family members of honorees.


In years past, CUA retirement celebrations were held within each retiree’s department or office. But Father O’Connell decided retirement was “too special” not to be recognized by the entire CUA community.


"After observing the tremendous commitment of our faculty and staff to the university community, I felt that we should have a more fitting university-wide celebration and recognition of that service,” said the president. “Too often, people leave us before we have the ability to express our gratitude in an appropriate way.


“The true story of CUA is really the story of these dedicated individuals who have made service to us all, especially our students, their priority."


Inside CUA Online asked five of this year’s retirees to answer a few questions about their future plans and their memories of Catholic University:



The Rev. William Cenkner, O.P., the Katharine Drexel Professor of Religion, joined the CUA faculty in 1969. He was dean of the School of Religious Studies from 1985 to 1993. Here’s what he told us:


Father O’Connell thanks Father Cenkner for his years of service.

His fondest memory: “All of the international students I have had the pleasure to teach. They taught me a lot about the richness of other ways of life, multiculturalism and their contributions to the American way.”


The biggest change on the CUA campus over the years: “The greatest change has been its transformation to the technological age. The information systems and classroom technology were primitive when I began. The standard, upright, non-electric typewriter was the lone modern convenience on campus.”


His plans for retirement: “I hope to be a ‘scholar in residence’ at Barry University in Florida. Perhaps I will be able to uncover some of the research that has gone dormant over the years of active teaching.”



Edward Belanger, head of administrative services for CUA libraries, spent 38 years at CUA.


Edward Belanger

His fondest memory of CUA: “I’m looking out my window [from his office in Mullen Library] right now and remember that when I first came here, those two buildings — Keane Hall and Shahan Hall — were being dedicated. It sticks out because I remember seeing that. This has been like a big family. I’m leaving home.”


The biggest change on the CUA campus over the years: “I’ve been working here for 38 years, and before then I was a grad student here. It was different then. I remember the elevated track [close to the power plant and the Columbus School of Law] for the runners. People used to refer to this place as “Little Rome” with all the priests and nuns here. And there was this great controversy: In the summertime, the priests came out with the short-sleeve shirts. What a controversy! To some people, it was horrifying. But it was hot!”


His plans for retirement: “I’m going to be a grandpa. By the end of the month, I’ll have six grandchildren in all. I’m going to spend time with them and learn to be a child again.”



Leslie Hubbell, executive assistant in the Office of the Provost, has spent nearly 20 years at CUA, first as assistant to the dean of the School of Library and Information Science. She transferred to the Office of the Academic Vice President/Provost in October 1985.


Her fondest memory of CUA: “I have so many great memories. But most importantly, it’s been the people; it’s been so much like a family. People are so concerned for each other. It’s not ever impersonal. I think that has made any problems there have been here a lot easier to handle, because you never feel you’re alone.”


The biggest change on the CUA campus over the years: “Probably seeing the increased emphasis on undergraduate education. I’ve always been very much committed to that.”


Her plans for retirement: “I want to do more stuff outdoors. I enjoy gardening and horseback riding and walking, and I want to do more of that.”



Gary Williams, professor of drama, began his teaching career at CUA in 1973 as a lecturer and as a full-time professor the following year. He was the associate chair of the Department of Drama for 17 years.


Gary Williams

His fondest memory of CUA: “Meeting my future wife here when we entered as graduate students in 1963, seeking our master’s degrees in the drama department. We met at a theater history placement exam on the first day. When I returned to teach here in 1973, it was as a theater historian, and I’ve been teaching theater history here happily ever since. My graduate student experiences here, during the years of the Second Vatican Council, influenced my decision to convert to Catholicism.

“Fondest among my memories as a CUA faculty member are the exciting classroom discussions with undergraduates and graduates in courses on theater theory, Shakespeare on film, and theater and censorship.  I look back with wonder on our students’ intelligence and committed engagement to their art and our culture.”


The biggest change on the CUA campus over the years: “The initiatives of our administration over the last two decades to give high priority to our undergraduate programs and undergraduate teaching, housing and recruitment have made us a better university. Another major change in the CUA environment has been the trend from the 1980s until today toward a more conservative Catholicism.


His plans for retirement: My wife and I are working on a book on the absorption of Shakespeare into American pop culture. And I have two volumes on Shakespeare on the 20th century American stage promised to a publisher.  The Department of Drama at CUA has been a very important part of our lives for almost four decades; we look forward to serving it in the future as alumni.



The Rev. David Johnson, S.J., associate professor and director of early Christian studies in the Department of Semitics and Egyptian Languages and Literatures, has spent the past 30 years at CUA — as a graduate student and a professor.


My fondest memory of CUA: The students I have taught.


My plans for retirement: Research and writing.



Following is a list of the other seven retirees:


The seven retirees who attended the March 21 event: back row (left to right): Gary Williams, Father David Johnson, S.J., and Charles Dechert; front row: Edward Belanger, Catherine Stancil, Father William Cenkner, O.P., and Claressa Butler.


Seven of the 12 retirees were able to participate in the convocation. Each honoree was introduced by the vice president of the area in which they worked (either Provost John Convey or Vice President for Administration Susan Pervi) and then spoke briefly. Father O’Connell presented each retiree with a gift of appreciation and delivered closing remarks.