Biology, Geosciences, History Faculty Members Retire | Trinity University
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Biology, Geosciences, History Faculty Members Retire

Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Retiring professor Bob Blystone and his wife

Biology professor Bob Blystone wife his wife, Donna.

Trinity bids farewell to longtime professors  

by Susie P. Gonzalez

Professors are at the center of important memories of most Trinity University alumni. Some faculty members have become synonymous with the University’s identity, and it seems as if they are permanent campus fixtures. Alas, they do decide to retire, but before we let them go, we asked them to reflect upon the past and share plans for the next chapter.   

Here are the questions we asked:

1. What year did you come to Trinity? How has the campus, your department, your discipline, or your scholarship changed over the years?

2. What are some of your proudest achievements as a Trinity faculty member?

3. What will you miss most about Trinity?

4. What is next for you?

5. Please provide your preferred e-mail address.

Robert V. “Bob” Blystone, professor of biology

My start date at Trinity was Jan. 11, 1971. Trinity has gone from a shoe-string country club veneer to a business-like international campus.

The biology department went from eight faculty members teaching half the entering class Intro to Biology and covering a graduate master’s program to 13 faculty with a balanced teaching and research responsibility with no graduate programs.

When I started Trinity, cytology was becoming cell biology, embryology was becoming developmental biology, and histology was becoming microanatomy.

Both my research topic and my research approach have changed considerably at Trinity. When I arrived, anatomy of invertebrate vision systems was my focus.  I changed with Air Force funding to investigating mammalian eyes damaged by laser beams. Based on student interest I moved to looking at lung development, especially embryonic avian lungs exposed to steroids. Again with Air Force funding, I began looking at RAW 264.7 mouse macrophage cells exposed to microwave energy. We discovered the release of viral particles upon exposure, a finding that excited a few people. That project led to a major effort at looking at heat transfer through the skin of rats exposed to 35 and 94 GHz microwave energy levels. This effort was associated with supporting the development of non-lethal weapon systems by the Air Force.

I was also interested in the role of biology textbooks in learning. With support from the American Cancer Society I developed new instructional materials for cell biology. With support from Apple and working with some bright students, we developed 3-D and 4-D reconstructions of body organ histology. With National Science Foundation (NSF) support we developed digital imaging procedures for the “average” science classroom.  Again with NSF support, retired mathematics professor Rick Cooper and I developed some integrated approaches to biology and statistics for the college curriculum.

Professor Blystone works with student Aparna Gomes

Without a doubt my proudest achievements are the achievements of my former students. I like to think that I have played some small role in their successes.

I will miss two things after leaving Trinity: 1) the day-to-day effort to get the next lecture, the next lab, the next assignment ready, and 2) the day-to-day interaction with students.  As this last semester played out, I would no longer look for things to put into lectures/labs or place on T-Learn for students to read. When I walked through a hobby store, I would always look for materials that could be used in the classroom. I don’t have to do that anymore. My intellectual life has always been focused on the classroom and student needs. I don’t need to have that focus anymore. Although I will miss the day-to-day academic teaching life, I can explore new intellectual vistas that have been on hold for a long time.

I started answering the “what’s next” question with the previous question. I have a very curious mind, both literally and figuratively. Do the cars in a church parking lot favor different colors based on the dynamics of the congregation? How many different styles of water tanks are there in San Antonio? Where do vultures go at night? How have obituary notices in newspapers changed over time? Just how is the gut microbiome in tune with the external environment of the body?

My e-mail for professional reasons is rblyston [at] trinity.edu. For family correspondence, it is rblystone [at] satx.rr.com.

Thomas Gardner was the Herndon Distinguished Professor of Geosciences

Thomas Gardner, Herndon Distinguished Professor of Geosciences

Since I came to Trinity in 1995, one big change is that the Science Lecture Hall was razed to make room for the spectacular Center for the Sciences and Innovation (CSI) facility. From my office in Marrs McLean, I watched them tear down Moody and watched CSI being built. We stayed in our offices and watched them build new ones.

Another change is within the geosciences department. I’ve seen significant change in the area of student research. Students now do research and publish results of their work. When I first came here, we didn’t do much of that and then the department joined the Keck Geology Consortium. If you walk up and down our halls now, they are full of posters showing student research from around the world with faculty supervisors. That’s why they brought me here.

It was beneficial to me, since I kept in close association with my colleagues from Penn State, who joined me in some of my research trips. We went to Costa Rica and Panama for 15 years. That’s one of the most enjoyable things for me in this job is to educate students, especially in the field, by taking students overseas. During summers, we would go anywhere from the California coast to Costa Rica to Panama to New Zealand and Australia and to British Columbia. It’s eye-opening for the students, and it’s fun to watch them. That’s when they realize “the stuff” they learned in the classroom is “stuff” they can really use and apply.

I’m proudest of bringing student research into the department and fostering that program. It is so well built up that it now will carry on without me. I’ll miss students the most.

As for “what’s next,” I will be “at Trinity” over the summer, but first I took the geosciences majors in May on the annual trip to Big Bend National Park. Next, I’m going to Tasmania to finish a project that I started in the spring of 2016. In Australia, I am studying active faults in the western corner of that country. Nobody thought faults were there, so it is geologically unique and interesting. I wanted to go back one more time and excavate some material and carbon date it. The bedrock is buried under seven meters of sand, and I’m certain we will get enough data for a nice article.

In the fall, I will visit the Trinity library a couple times a week to carve out some writing time. I also plan to complete some home maintenance projects and start tracing my family genealogy. When my wife retires, we most likely will retire to the Pacific Northwest where relatives live.

I will keep my Trinity e-mail, tgardner [at] trinity.edu.

Linda K. Salvucci was an associate professor of History

Linda K. Salvucci, associate professor of History

I came to a very dynamic Trinity in the fall of 1985. The campus itself is even busier and prettier today, with some amazing new resources along with opportunities for continued growth. I joined a history department that was centered upon a core of wonderfully talented and committed scholar-teachers and very bright and energetic students.  Several are now professional historians themselves, while their fellow alumni are making impressive contributions in other walks of life. My newer department colleagues are likewise terrific; however, our students now are more diverse and tempted more strongly by other disciplines and careers, so they keep us on our toes. The larger profession faces these challenges as well, and thus historians have become much more intentional and explicit about how we guide our students to emerge as career -- and citizenship -- ready to meet the demands of the 21st century. My own participation in the Tuning Project of the American Historical Association and experiences as a former chair of the National Council for History Education have pushed me to articulate as clearly as possible the value of studying history. Our students acquire practical skills -- not what to think, but how to think -- that translate into the ability to be lifelong learners and productive, imaginative, and engaged members of society.

Trinity encouraged, shaped, and broadened my scholarship and writing in a number of significant ways. My decades-long focus on trade relations between the first British and Spanish Empires, particularly between the United States and Cuba, was nurtured through the years by support for regular archival research trips and conference presentations on three continents, allowing me to be vitally involved in the developing field of Atlantic world history. Two of my publications on imperial fiscal and early national trade reforms won professional prizes. But early on in my career, I also had the opportunity to critique U.S. history textbooks for stereotypes about Mexico, Mexicans, and Mexican Americans. Originally, I thought that this would be a one-time academic evaluation, but it turned into a new strand of research and writing that eventually resulted in the invitation to coauthor a U.S. history textbook for eighth- and ninth graders, one that has since reached millions of students around Texas, the nation, and the world. This project drew me even further into “public history,” including testimony at textbook adoption hearings, interviews for radio and online, op-ed contributions to newspapers, evaluations of social studies standards and assessment instruments, and some very rewarding professional development work with K-12 teachers. Finally, and this never would have happened had I not taught at Trinity and lived in San Antonio, I began to teach a First Year Seminar, “Remembering the Alamo: Myth, Memory and History,” in 2000. Our scholarship most often infuses our teaching, but in this case, my teaching led to conference papers and articles on issues related to the Alamo, including one in History Now, an online journal with a readership of more than 10,000, far larger an audience than conventional academic publications usually reach. And over the last two years, I have been involved with consulting for and evaluating the ambitious and contested plans to “Reimagine the Alamo” historic district and complex. So, during my three decades at Trinity, I have researched and published in now well-established fields — Atlantic world history, SOTL (Scholarship on Teaching and Learning) for history, and public history — that barely existed when I began my graduate studies at Princeton.             

I recall with fondness and pride those occasions when students and advisees had their “aha!” moments and showed that they had stretched themselves intellectually and/or personally on their individual journeys of discovery, independence, and growth. I was pleased to be the 2013 recipient of Trinity’s Distinguished Achievement in Advising Award.    

Since Richard, my spouse, remains on the faculty in the economics department, I am spared having to say hard goodbyes to Trinity colleagues. I will miss teaching with Richard our interdisciplinary course on the transatlantic slave trade (although I won’t miss grading at all!) Thanks to social media and other means of communication, I already keep in touch with many former colleagues, students, and advisees, and plan to continue doing so more diligently in the future.   

I look forward mostly to having the time to work on my scholarly and public history projects, but also to being able to read for pleasure, to travel in a less hectic and more flexible manner, and to live a less-rushed life with family and friends. I am excited about and grateful for these opportunities!

My e-mail address is lsalvucc [at] trinity.edu.

Also retiring this spring is Dan Walz, professor of finance and decision sciences.