Honors dean celebrates retirement after 38 years

Ted Hamilton

Larry Andrews, associate professor of English and Honors College dean, and wife Karen to several speakers at his retirement party yesterday afternoon in the Student Center. BRIAN MARKS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Classical music is usually playing lightly on the radio in Honors Dean Larry Andrews’ office in the new Honors College complex. A picture of the dean with the Easter Bunny sits on the desk while more serious works of art hang on the walls.

The new complex is part of Andrews’ work for the Honors College, but he will only get to enjoy the office until the end of the semester – he is retiring.

Andrews has been the dean of the Honors College for 14 of the 38 years he has spent at Kent State.

Andrews first began teaching at Kent State in 1969 and was teaching class when the May 4 shootings happened.

“I thought it was a turning point in Kent State’s history in that it renewed our commitment to students and academic freedom,” he said.

Now the new honors office faces the shooting site and Andrews can see the field from his office window.

Besides being routinely evacuated from classrooms and being woken up by helicopters at night, Andrews said the event helped him learn more about “the complexity of history.”

Andrews came to Kent partially because he and his wife were looking for a nice place to bring up their three children.

“We wanted a place where we felt comfortable as a family and that had a good community,” he said.

Andrews knew he wanted to be a professor because, as an undergraduate, he “loved the university setting so much” he never felt like he wanted to leave it. He said the reason he liked the setting so much was because of the environment of intellectual stimulation and the academic freedom.

Andrews taught several English courses, including an Honors Freshman Colloquium course.

“My best memories (of teaching) are of students who produced interesting and unique projects with the freedom I gave to them,” he said.

Andrews gave his students a lot of freedom in their projects and they created everything from Star Trek scripts to presenting Korean dance style, he said. One student even performed a folk song she wrote to come out of the closet.

Teaching demands a lot and can take a lot out of a person “but you have to balance your life in a healthy way,” Andrews said.

Andrews said he did not want the honors dean position at first because he “enjoyed teaching.”

It was not until an honors staff member encouraged him to apply that he put in his application for the position.

“It was a good time in my life for a new adventure,” he said.

The main attraction of the position was having “a voice in larger university affairs.” The administrative position also let him help more students than he could in the classroom, he said.

Andrews will not be leaving Kent State without having made an imprint on Kent State, particularly on the Honors College.

Kathe Davis, associate professor and director of Women’s Studies, has known Andrews for more than 30 years and has gotten to know him well. She said she thinks he will be hard to replace.

“He’s got an unusual combination of characteristics that is very hard to find,” she said.

Andrews has had a “tremendous amount of influence” on the Honors College, she said. He has not changed the direction of previous deans, but he has helped develop it more fully, she said.

“It’s the smaller, excellent college in a larger, public one,” she said.

Davis said he is a people person in that he is sensitive to other’s feelings and thoughts. He also has universal respect from students, staff and faculty.

Although Andrews is very serious, he can have fun at the same time, Davis said.

For example, when one student was giving their dissertation on Canada Day, Andrews led the committee in singing ‘O Canada!’

Davis said she thinks overseeing the remodeling of Stopher Hall and the move of the Honors College from Van Campen has been one of Andrews’ greatest accomplishments.

Deborah Craig, coordinator of recruitment and scholarships for the Honors College, has known Andrews for more than 20 years and works closely with him in the Honors College.

Craig echoes Davis about the Honors center being one of Andrews’ greatest accomplishments.

“The entire project developed under his watch,” Craig said.

The transition to the next dean will be fairly easy because Andrews has created “such a strong foundation” so the incoming dean will be getting something that is already well developed, she said.

Andrews has also succeeded in increasing the size of the Honors College along with increasing the amount of money the college receives, she said.

“(The Honors College staff) sees him as a colleague and a friend more than a boss,” she said.

Although Andrews has started many projects, he said he thinks one of the important is the “Adopt-a-Thesis-Student” program.

The Honors College used to reimburse thesis students up to $100 for their thesis supplies, but now students get sponsored by somebody who is usually an alumnus. The sponsor pays $150 – $50 of which goes into the endowment for thesis fellowships.

The program is a way to save money, but serves a more important purpose.

“It is also a good way for an alum to have a personal connection with a current student,” he said.

Some of the sponsors come back to sponsor thesis students and the Honors College with more than just the $150 fee. One sponsor gave $100,000 for an incoming scholarship, Andrews said.

“I think the repeat donors just really feel a connection and feel they are doing good,” Andrews said.

Andrews is looking forward to retirement though.

“I’m very excited about it,” he said. “I’m interested to see how it’ll feel and what I’ll do; it’s an adventure to me.”

Retirement will allow Andrews to follow his own interests and research, he said. One of the things he would like to focus on is learning more foreign languages. Andrews said he can speak French, German, Russian and a few others. He also has “reading knowledge” of other languages.

Andrews said he will miss teaching and might come back to teach a class someday.

“I’ll very much miss the students, staff and faculty,” he said. “That’ll be the hard part of retiring.”

Contact honors and international affairs reporter Ted Hamilton at [email protected].