By Page Forrest
At the end of this academic year, Sewanee will have to say goodbye to some professors, among them: Dr. John Palisano (Biology), Dr. Larry Carden (Religion), and Dr. Linda Lankewicz (Computer Science). Lacey Oliver (C’14) had fond memories of Dr. Carden’s class. “Dr. Carden’s Philosophy of Religion course inspired me to study and think about religious discourse in a new and interesting way. I still find myself referencing ideas we discussed all the time. I’m sorry to hear of his retirement, but I wish him well moving forward!” In addition to working in the Computer Science department, Dr. Lankewicz also served as Provost of the College through the 20112012 school year. Grace Shaw (C’15) said, regarding Lankewicz’ time as Provost, “My freshman year was easily the greatest year I have had at Sewanee. The university was both a relaxed and enjoyable community that was also productive and enjoyed comps and going out and Sewanee was the best place on earth under her administration.”
I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Palisano about his experience at Sewanee and his plans for the future.
Sewanee Purple: How long have you been at Sewanee?
John Palisano: I’ve been here 22 years. Sewanee was my second full time job. I used to teach part time in Cleveland, and ran a medical lab in a hospital. Immediately before this, I taught at Emory and Henry College in Virginia.
SP: How did you start teaching here?
JP: I was looking for a place that valued undergraduate research more than where I was doing at the time (Emory and Henry). I liked it when I was doing it at the hospital. And I wanted a place where I could actually set up the labs, instead of just in the classrooms. And then I saw Sewanee was advertising, so…
SP: What is your favorite class you’ve taught here?
JP: Usually any general Bithe upper level, but I really like teaching the intro courses because I like to try and engage them and hope they pick up from my enthusiasm how important and interesting it is. We live in a society where science is so important – if people understood just a scant bit more about biology, we’d have a lot fewer problems. I also taught the History of Science, and the Human Mind: Artistic and Scientific Creativity those classes were really fun. I also like to see the progress students make, when you have them in the first year class, and then you take upper level courses with them and see how much they flower with it.
SP: Is there anything in particular that motivated you to retire this year?
JP: The Volunteer Enhanced Retirement plan –they offered to put more money into retirement plans in order to encourage professors to retire.
SP: Any big retirement plans?
JP: For a couple months, I just want to relax, and not worry about preparing classes. But after that, something which I haven’t been able to do, and then getting back to photography. I put that on the back burner for about 20 years now. I haven’t even made the transition from film to digital photography yet. In regards to traveling, frankly there’s an awful lot of US I haven’t even seen, and I’d like to see more of that on my own terms. But I’d also like to get back to Europe.
SP: Do you have any advice for students?
JP: Life is short, so while you have to remain on a track to move forward, remember to stop and enjoy what you’re doing as well. Sometimes I worry with students thinking the world is so competitive, they think you have to be driven all the time, and can’t take time to reflect and enjoy what you’ve achieved.
SP: And advice for other professors who will be here after you?
JP: Sometimes people think that professors are kind of stodgy and like to keep things the way they are, but particularly as a professor of biology, I think people have to understand that things change and we have to adapt. Organisms that adapt evolve, most on my teaching experience is this story in particular.
SP: Most memorable Sewanee story?
JP: There are so many and they’re all so great, but I think the one that reflects the So I like 8 o’clock classes, and I taught one one semester, and I got there maybe 5 minutes before every class, and every time there was a student who was there before me. Every time I walked in she’d tell me good morning in such a way that made you feel she really meant it.
Dr. Carden, Dr. Lankewicz, and Dr. Palisano will all be missed next year at Sewanee. However, their positive presences at the school will leave lasting effects. At the end of the interview, Dr. Palisano had one last remark looking towards the future. “I kind of feel bad about leaving now because I think the school is moving in a new and interesting direction now, and I think it will be successful, and I’d like to be a part of it, but I’ll be following it on campus long after I leave.”