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June 02, 2003 - Image 31

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2003-06-02

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e Michigan Daily - Orientation Edition 2003 - 19

University president gets personal |Popular English professor tells all

By Andrew McCormack
May 05, 2003
University President Mary Sue Coleman
sat down with the Daily News Editors for an
exclusive interview to discuss current issues
like budget cuts and the lawsuits, but
revealed a great deal about her personal his-
tory as well.
Born to a WWII veteran and physicist, Univer-
sity President Mary Sue Coleman said she spent
much of her early years moving around the south-
eastern U.S. before finally ending up in Iowa.
"I was quite shocked when I got to Iowa and
I realized that people drank iced tea without
sugar in it," Coleman said.
Though a chemistry major at Grinnell Col-
lege, Coleman took art classes throughout her
years at that school.
To this day, Coleman stresses the
importance of risking intellectual
interest in unlikely areas.
"The biggest risk I took was I
wandered one day into any
evening course in metal-
smithing using both silver and
gold and learning how to work
in silver and gold. I was ak
Chemistry major and I had never .
in my life been in an art studio
like that.
"This was just one of theser
things you go and you do in
the evening, so I thought,
'Oh, well I'll just go and see

about this.' I was a freshman and I ended up
getting very serious about it and took Studio
Art for all four years. I loved doing it, I just
loved the solitude of the studio and having the
time to create with these metals," she said.
But ultimately the demands of a family and
career ended her study of art.
"I knew that I wasn't going to be an art major
- I was a Chemistry major - but it was a
wonderful contrast to being in a chemistry lab
and studying chemistry and then, having this
other side that was creative.
She said her roots also led her to believe in
affirmative action.
"I lived in Kentucky, Georgia - Statesbor-
ough Georgia - and Tennessee and went to
Graduate school in North Carolina at Chapel
Hill and then went back to North Carolina in
1990. I just saw the tremendous and positive
impacts that affirmative action had on
access and inclusion and in giving
opportunity," Coleman added.
She never really intended to end
up in the line of work she did, but
rather fell into it. "I thought I
would end up teaching at a small
liberal arts college somewhere and
I didn't do that at all. I went into a
research university right from the
word go and I was a very happy
faculty member for 19 years and then
I got an opportunity to do something
that was more administrative and I
just kept progressing, but it certainly
wasn't a lifelong goal."

ByERiky Lax
April 10,2003
Ralph Williams has been teaching religion
and literature courses at the University for
years. His presence in the classroom is one of a
kind as he has entertained countless students all
the while teaching them the likes of Dante,
Shakespeare and the Bible. The Michigan Daily
caught up with Williams to ask him what
makes him so unique.
The Michigan Daily: Congratulations on win-
ning Best Professor.
Ralph Williams: I am genuinely and deeply
honored, and will do my very best to try to
deserve it. I love every hair on my students'
heads, and am wholly in love with the materials I
teach: My life is hugely privileged in those ways.
TMD: When did you know you wanted to be a
college professor?
RW: Do you know I've always enjoyed the
study of literature, but that existed in a larger net-
work of interests. In many ways, coming to be a
college teacher was something that simply hap-
pened. There are probably six or eight lives that
I'd have enjoyed living. I'd have enjoyed being a
doctor. Loved to have been a lawyer. Well, in col-
lege, I applied to graduate school and Michigan's
English department came up with something
marvelous called a fellowship, which paved my
way to study more. While doing that, I discovered
that one of the chief things that one did was
become a teacher.
TMD: Academic freedom is very important to
you; have you ever been deprived of it?

RW: No. And I would leave the profession
immediately if I were. It's enormously
important to me
One needs to hear the views of all with whom
one has to do intellectually and otherwise, as they
wish to express it.
TMD: Is anything off limits in your classes?
RW: Yes, there is. Abuse of other speakers. The
views of other are open to inspection from all
quarters, but there will be human respect within
the classroom for those who are present.
TMD: Are any topics off limit?
RW: In general, no - but, pragmatically, there
is a restraint that I place on myself. It's my under-
standing, my commitment, that I, in the sense of
commitments or antagonisms to commitments, am
not the point of my Bible class. The point of the
class is the material that draws us together and the
discourse, as itis constructed by you, by me, by all
of those there. Off limits for me in the classroom is
the sort of expression of points of view, which
intend to produce commitment to my own views.

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