"Education is what Wabash is about, and we should offer our talents to the community at all levels of education, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. It is an important bridge for the College to build."
Tributes to Four Scholar/Teachers: Professor Les Hearson
Dedication to College and Community Will Continue for Hearson
College Registrar and Professor of Biology Les Hearson didn't want his retirement from the College in May to draw much attention. That's just the way he is--a soft-spoken, unassuming person who doesn't demand accolades for the tireless effort he has given the College and Crawfordsville community for the last 30 years. Despite his best efforts, however, a retirement celebration did take place, and Hearson was duly honored.
Hearson came to the College in 1967 to teach developmental biology after earning degrees in biology and chemistry at Kansas State and a Ph.D. in zoology from Michigan State.
"The greatest reward of teaching at the College," Hearson says, "is working with the students and advisees." His dedication to the students earned him the McLain-McTurnan Distinguished Teaching Award in 1972 and the Outstanding Professor of the Year Award in 1974 from the Sphinx Club.
Hearson was also an adjunct professor at Purdue University, where he worked closely with pioneers such as Lionel Jaffey on wound healing in vertebrates. He frequently brought Wabash students to assist in the research at Purdue.
"No matter how busy he was, he always made himself available to and influenced the lives of many, many students," said Sharon Lawton, Associate Registrar and a co-worker for 13 years. "Students were not just students to Les, they were his friends--and to any who knew him well, he was their mentor."
Reflecting back on his 30 years at Wabash, Hearson attributes his desire to connect with students to his own mentors--people he calls "giants"--Professors Eric Dean, Ed Haenisch, George Lovell, and Willis Johnson--who were respected across campus.
"There was just something magical about the way they presented themselves in their teaching and research," he says.
Hearson's most challenging period at the College came in the fall of 1991, when he was acting Director of Financial Aid in addition to his duties as a professor and College Registrar. He immediately had to become an expert in matters of financial aid after the departure of Dean of Students and Director of Financial Aid David Miller. At the time he was also teaching Biology 5, working with the Co-Ed study committee, assisting with recruitment efforts, and acting as president of the Crawfordsville School Board.
"There were some 18-20 hour days that fall," says Hearson. "There wasn't a day when I didn't come into the office." But Hearson's calm manner kept things under control. "Even when he was wearing several different hats at the same time," says Lawton, "he still kept the same, pleasant atmosphere in the office--that of a truly professional, caring colleague."
Hearson has also made his mark in the Crawfordsville community, and continues to do so after his retirement from the College. He currently serves on the Crawfordsville city council and is working with the Crawfordsville School System as an architectural assistant during the renovation and expansion of several elementary schools. Previously, he served an eight-year term on the Crawfordsville school board, providing crucial leadership in the construction of the new high school from 1991-1993.
"There are important reasons for the members of the College to reach out and offer our expertise to the community," says Hearson. "Education is what Wabash is about, and we should offer our talents to the community at all levels of education, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. It is an important bridge for the College to build."
And Hearson will continue to make sure that bridge gets built.