Kaiser Receives Faculty Service Award

Posted on October 31st, 2006 by

Barbara Kaiser and Sandy GrochowGustavus President Jim Peterson presented Professor Barbara Kaiser of the MCS Department with the Faculty Service Award at today’s Founders Day ceremony in chapel.

She is pictured here exchanging congratulations with Sandy Grochow, recipient of the Augusta Carlson Schultz Award for the Outstanding Support Staff Employee. (Not pictured is Tami Aune, recipient of the Eric Norelius Award for the Outstanding Administrative Employee.)

What follows are the remarks Professor Will Freiert of the Classics Department delivered at the subsequent reception, explaining why Professor Kaiser was chosen for the Faculty Service Award:

Gustavus is the community it is, because it attracts people like Barbara Kaiser. In her twenty-two years on this faculty, Barb has chaired the Curriculum Committee, has served on at least one of those Stretegic Planning Committees that sprout up every few years, has worked on the President’s Task Force on Diversity, and has been elected to the Personnel Committee, the Faculty Senate, the Student Activities Committee and God knows what all.

She has planned Science Day, has been a Gunisa advisor on science and research, has done a number of third-year faculty reviews, has been on the Compensation sub-committee, on the Area D sub-committee, the Board of Trustees subcommittee on social organizations, and the teacher advisory committee.

In her own department, she has directed a slew of student research projects, has shared in the work of five different curriculum development projects, and spends an inordinate amount of time with majors, critiquing their work, introducing them to new concepts, helping them with proofs. And then, each semester there is Games Night in Barbara and Karl’s home, for students and faculty to match their wits in a social setting.

In the larger community, with Carolyn Dobler, Barbara developed the No Numbers Math Club at south elementary, she has coached Math Counts, she has been a community advisor about math requirements in the school system, has served on the high-school principal hiring committee, and has been a volunteer classroom math instructor.

But there are others who have served on just as many of these infernal committees as has Barb. There are others who serve the college in a variety of ad-hoc tasks every semester. There are others who enable their departments to function smoothly and their students to excel. There are others who are active in the St. Peter or the Minnesota community. Why should she be getting this award?

If you check out Barb’s homepage at http://homepages.gac.edu/~kaiser/ you will find these stanzas from Lewis Carroll’s, The Hunting of the Snark

Taking Three as the subject to reason about-
A convenient number to state-
We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out
By One Thousand diminished by Eight.
The result we proceed to divide, as you see,
By Nine Hundred and Ninety and Two:
Then subtract Seventeen, and
the answer must be
Exactly and perfectly true.

With the help of my high-powered calculator, I eventually saw it was fitting that the verses conclude right back where they started, like a beautiful piece of Barb’s knitting.

As you know, knitting is a form of fabric needle-work that goes back at least a couple of thousand years, perhaps to ancient Egypt. Like the much older craft of weaving, knitting has a mathematical regularity of patterning that models the underlying structure of reality, which we now know from string theory is a pattern of loops. As a knitter, Barb is one of those who knits together the strands of our community, interlinking strands of humans who knit together. Sometimes Barb’s knitting is through knitting. At other times, it is through spending time as a mentor.

When my wife started teaching at Gustavus, there were only two women on the faculty with Ph.D.s People treated her as if she were my secretary, interrupting her to ask if it was OK to interrupt me. But by the time young Barbara arrived, that number had increased a whopping six-fold, although there were no female Ph.D.’s in math or the sciences. I don’t know if people asked you to take Karl’s messages, Barb. But as the proportion of women on the faculty daringly inched its way past 10%, among the ways that Gustavus became a more supportive environment was through Barbara’s behind the scenes leadership and encouragement. In particuar, she has over the years been a generous mentor to any number of colleagues. This kind of work is informal and often unnoticed. It is the work that no one knows about beyond its beneficiaries. It is work that takes time, our most expensive resource. Barb Kaiser is the kind of person who makes things happen behind the scenes. She does not take charge. She does not merely pile up accomplishments on her resume. She just knits. Often she knits her brow and adds a wry smile, sometimes she adds just a touch of sardonic humor. But she keeps knitting. Knitting is a metaphor for just saying yes, when asked to build community. Knitting is a metaphor for mentoring the fabric of community into a seamless garment. Knitting is a metaphor for the service to our community, for which we honor her today. Thank you, Barb.


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