absolutely loved working with Dr. Susan Lipscomb. She asked great questions and really knew how to lead a discussion. She’d ask a question and wait through that awkward silence we’ve all experienced until someone started talking. She had that all-important ability to interject and steer a discussion without taking over. When I [served as a] TA for her and Dr. Ben Lipscomb my senior year, they’d have me over to their house for dinner with the family. Their ability to balance family life and work life left a real impact on me.
Laura (Jackson ’10) Rash
Dr. Rebekah Yates is quirky and fun, and I associate her strongly with the color orange, probably because that is her favorite, and she had orange pants and an orange water bottle and gave us orange syllabi. Rebekah pushed me to work hard in her classes (she taught in a style that practically forced everyone to keep up with the material and reading as our participation or lack thereof was evident in class) and was excellent to talk to at any time. She also made delicious desserts for exam days, a tradition I’ve semi-carried over to my own teaching.
Laura Ballard ’13
“Papa” (Dr. Paul) Shea wasn’t just a knowledgeable missions professor; he was personable, caring about our everyday lives. He was oh-so-hyper and got distracted often and went off in totally different directions at times, but his love for Jesus, for his students and for missions always shone through.
Kelly (Bennett ’11) Spencer
I suppose that one could say that it is pretty obvious that Dr. Doug Gaerte has been influential in my life…after all, he is my dad! I have had a lifetime of watching him be a professor to hundreds of students, myself included. I have never known my dad to say “no” or “not now” to a student. We’ve had students live with us, students eat with us, and students drive home on breaks with us as we headed out on vacation. We’ve delayed dinner to eat as a family because a student needed some extra help on a paper or a personal problem. I’ve helped him pick out crazy costumes for SPOT skits and new sweater vests for special student events. There is nothing he would not do for his students.
Emily (Gaerte ’12) Spateholts
During the Spain and Portugal Art Mayterm, we had finished touring Gaudi’s Casa Mila, and all my classmates left for lunch. I hadn’t attached myself to any one group and found myself standing on the roof of the Casa Mila with Murph, Gary, and Rhett. They looked over at their stranded freshman nuisance, and Murph said, “Shouldn’t you be with people?” to which I responded with all my freshman clever genius, “You are people.” No matter how annoyed the three of them may have felt at their unanticipated responsibility, they took me out to this Chinese restaurant and even paid for it, I think. I loved every second of it and every moment spent with them after that.
Jane (Stairs ’15) Harrell
Dr. Sunshine Sullivan went above and beyond. I went through some personal trials while at college, and I was able to just go into her office and cry if I needed to. The crying turned into caring conversations. She even realized that maybe I was not on track with my spiritual life and pushed me in a positive way. Dr. Sullivan never left you in the dust when having assignments for class. She let you ask as many questions as needed and never got frustrated. If the class did not understand one concept, she never moved on to the next until we got it. That meant, if the syllabus needed to be altered, it was no issue. She wanted to see her students succeed!
Andrea Webster ’15
Hands down, my favorite professor is Dr. Aaron Sullivan. His trademark frank and bantering sense of humor (not to mention his distractibility) makes him one of the most approachable profs I’ve met. There were times in class where he would stop dead in the middle of a sentence and stare out the window for a solid six seconds before resuming with something to the effect of “Sorry, there was a blue-jay/squirrel/leaf outside that did something-or-other, and I had to watch it.” His enthusiasm and passion for biology are contagious, and I can’t help but smile when I think of the way his whole face would light up when he explained something that fascinated him. His classes afforded me my first opportunities to conduct legitimate, original research in a field that interested me, and despite, my longstanding conviction that I hated research, I found myself enjoying it.
Alie Apgar ’19
Ben and Susan Lipscomb have had a huge impact on my life. They coached me through FYHP 2007, and then they took me along for FYHP 2010 as a program assistant. During both experiences, but especially as program assistant, they heavily invested in me as a person and student. As a math education major, I was anxious in 2010 about my abilities to coach first year honors students with their writing, but affirmation and assistance from Ben and Susan helped me to grow and to learn to start seeing myself as more than one thing—not just a math person but a person with more, valuable skills and abilities. The opportunities they gave me that semester helped me to grow as a teacher and a person. Ben and Susan have stayed in touch with me since graduating in 2010 and are always interested in hearing updates from me. When I have seen them in person and had chances to catch up, they’ve continued to be phenomenal listeners and always have good thoughts and helpful reflections about my experiences and struggles.
Rachel Starks ’10
Kristin Camenga has probably had the greatest impact on me of any teacher I’ve had throughout my life. Kristin was my academic advisor and my professor for a number of classes. She always pushed me and cared for me and put lots of effort into helping me grow. Kristin gave me my first opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant and helped me begin to understand what it meant to be a teacher. Kristin gently corrected me when I was wrong, whether mathematically or in more personal ways. Kristin went out of her way to do (more than one) independent study with me to ensure I had all the courses and credits I needed.
Rachel Starks ’10
When I think of my time at Houghton, the very first person to pop into my mind is Dr. Stephen Woolsey of the English Department. Kind, soft-spoken, caring, intelligent and genuine don’t even begin to define him. I can think of endless times that I, a constantly overwhelmed undergraduate student, popped into his office for a life chat or for encouragement. If I had to guess, I’d say Dr. Woolsey probably doesn’t have a clue just how big an impact he had on me (and so many other students, too). I first met him as a freshman, Fall of 2011. I found myself in his 300-level British Poetry class, the only freshman in a sea of articulate, intelligent and intimidating juniors and seniors. I remember so clearly going to Dr. Woolsey’s office and telling him how scared I was to contribute my opinions in class discussions. He listened, nodding his head ever so slightly in typical “Dr. Woolsey” fashion. And then, he made me believe in myself, encouraged me to take chances. He could have so easily signed a drop/add slip and sent me on my way, but instead, he helped me stick through a difficult class and come out so much more confident.
Katherine Szwejbka ’15
I also need to mention my experiences with Dr. Case. Where Dr. Woolsey is soft and warm, Dr. Case seemed to be intimidating and—dare I say it—terrifying. Always wearing black, rarely breaking his professional facade and filled with more knowledge than one man should be able to hold, I just assumed Dr. Case was not the kind of professor to mess with. And yet, by the time I was getting ready to graduate, Dr. Case was a true mentor to me, and his family home felt like a safe haven I could always turn to in times of need. During my junior year, I had a crisis of faith and felt disconnected from God. I questioned who I was and what mattered. And looking back, I don’t know if I could have made it through that period of doubt without Dr Case there to help. I felt like I could come to him any time, whether it was to talk about religion or important life things or just the mundane. He made me feel valued as a student and a person, and I think he is truly one of the cornerstones of my time at Houghton.
Katherine Szwejbka ’15
Over the course of my four years at Houghton, it was Professor Huth who not only helped me to feel validated in the work that I was doing as a student but provided the guidance and direction that allowed me to feel confident in myself in the face of some of the difficult issues, including anxiety, that I was trying to work through in my personal life. Whether it was chatting over French fries at Big Al’s or a coffee at Java, Dave was a professor who wanted to be there for his students, and he was. I remember at one point I shared the idea of how my education and what I was pursuing stood up against some of the other students and degree programs at Houghton. I expressed my concern that, while some students were working toward being the solvers of sociopolitical issues or world hunger or poverty, I was sitting in the lab creating weird collages of people with giraffe heads on their bodies. I’ll never forget how he responded. He shared with me that, while some people were doing the important work of making the world a better, safer and more sustainable place to live, others (including me) were doing the important work of making the world a more beautiful place to be.
Jesse Stoddard ’10
Dr. Benjamin Hegeman, or, as he was known to many of us students, Papa Ben, was both a mentor and friend during my time at Houghton College, and I know of many others who would say the same. A missionary at heart, his sphere of influence extended far beyond the classroom as he made it a point to spend hours of his time every week in one-on-one meetings with his pupils and mentees. Most often, we would find ourselves circling the track together at a lively pace, or perhaps walking aimlessly down Houghton’s streets and paths, while discussing topics ranging from “life’s four most important questions” to “the meaning of freedom” and so on. These brisk walks were fitting, for Papa Ben is a man of action—an initiator. And I think that’s one of the things I admired most about him and his wife, Christine: their persistence in reaching out. In addition to acting as mentors for a number of students, they hosted a men’s and women’s bible study every week, imparting their years of wisdom and experience as we sat with our mugs of tea in hand, doing our best to take it all in. They invited students over for dinners and for games and even hosted a few of us in their spare rooms during Mayterm. All of this while teaching a full course load and preparing for their yearly trip to Benin, where they serve as part-time missionaries.
Zachary Kitchen ’15
Sunshine Sullivan was a professor that really pushed me to learn and grow as an educator. She helped me mold my philosophy of education and taught me the importance of being a voice for students who don’t have a voice. Because of her love and high expectations for her students, I learned to be that voice. I am now a special education teacher in south Buffalo and am able to stick up for the students in my class who don’t have the privilege of having a family member who cares enough to fight for them. Sunshine taught me to love my students in this new way, and, because of this, I feel so much more confident as a first-year teacher. She was one of the few teachers I genuinely felt pushed me to dig deep into content and grow, because she taught me how important it is for me to be a competent scholar personally and how important it is for my students that I become the best teacher I can be!
Melanie Eldred ’17
I first met Dr. Rebecca Williams when she did a “practice lecture” as part of her interview to become the new genetics professor. My first impression was that, even beyond her impeccable good style, she had a true passion for biology and her work. You could tell she had put many long hours into her research not just because she had to but because she was curious. She wanted to find the answers and learn about the world around her. Since coming on staff a few years ago, Dr. Williams has already built incredible connections with the students. She encouraged us and did everything she could to help us succeed. She would review difficult concepts with her students in her office for many hours. Before tests, she herself would hold review sessions on the weekends just to help students focus their studying. Yes, she challenged us, but that’s part of what makes Houghton professors great. They set the bar high and then help you to meet those expectations. She continues to devote all of her time and energy to helping her students succeed. As a student in her first class, it was definitely challenging, but I know we are all better for it. Seeing her devotion to her students made us want to devote our time to her class and mastering the content. She was giving everything to help us do well, and, therefore, we did our best too.
Kayla Miller ’17
My Intercultural Studies professors were some of the greatest mentors I’ve had in my life. The department itself, like Houghton as a whole, was like a family. Dr. Marcus Dean opened my eyes to the meaning of not only understanding other cultures but how God has allowed us to create so many different and beautiful ways to conduct our lives. Dr. Dean (I’m picturing him wearing one of his famous vests or sweaters) taught me that there is no perfect culture. He taught me that, just because you are now able to see the faults in your own culture through critical thinking, it doesn’t mean that this other culture got it all right. As long as there is sin in the world, culture, as with every manmade creation, will have its faults, but we are to constantly strive to discover the beauty and understanding that each culture brings to the table. Dr. Dean was not only my professor for multiple classes; he was also my boss in Off-Campus Programs, where he taught me how to receive constructive criticism and provide flawless work to my employer.
Kellie Schmit ’14
Dr. Michael Lastoria changed my entire outlook on life and my future—an impressive feat to accomplish in my first semester after transferring to Houghton College through his unforgettable Family Systems Theory course. Teaching a four-hour course takes stamina and an engaging style that goes beyond the standard lecturer. Not only that, but this evening class required Dr. Lastoria to capture and hold the attention of exhausted students from the extended hours of 6 to 10 p.m. Rising above and beyond that challenge, he attracted our interest, challenged us to expand our awareness and thinking, and drew us into a deeper understanding of the dynamics of relationships. His instruction in the convoluted web of emotions and relationships that form the motivation of our actions, going back years and even generations, has been invaluable in my personal life as well as my profession. I recall one particular class near the start of the semester. Coming in, I often demonstrated idealistic and narrow understandings of people’s motivations and behaviors. When my response to a question Dr. Lastoria posed betrayed that limited view of humanity, he responded with grace as he expanded my understanding to consider all factors in a person’s decision and encouraged me to investigate those possibilities in continual pursuit of the truth for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. After that course, Dr. Lastoria continued to be a revered expert and trusted confidante through additional coursework and in his role as the director of the counseling center.
Michael Blankenship ’10
When I think about my years at Houghton, I think about making ice cream in cross-country skiing class with TK (Thomas Kettelkamp). I think about wisdom he offered to those willing to listen when you’d sit down in his and Margo’s home for dinner and coffee. I think about how he hosted a graduation get-together for my friends and I and, later that year, made sure I had places to stay as I drove cross-country for my first job after college.
Victoria Bonners ’16
As my jobs have mainly been teaching in environmental education settings since graduation, I have often thought about my times as Coach Smalley’s teacher assistant. I remember how he’d look at me at the end of class one week and say, “Well, be ready, I want you to plan on leading next week.” Coach always knows just how to challenge students and place them in situations where they grow—a challenge and growth that usually resulted in more confidence in yourself.
Victoria Bonners ’16
Jo-Anne Young frequently opened her house to many students. My favorite memories of my Certified Horsemanship Association Mayterm are the nights all of us would be at Jo-Anne’s either watching movies or listening to stories over dinner. Jo-Anne and I also shared many laughs and memories during our trip to Bolivia together—a trip that we still look back on during conversations and see just how much God was at work. Since graduation, I have held a few positions where I managed a herd of horses and taught lessons. During those times, there were days I needed advice about what to do in situations, and I would either remember something Jo-Anne said (and hear it in her voice in my head) or call her at 6 a.m., when she was still willing to walk me through what I should be doing over the phone. Jo-Anne has been there through rejoicing, but she has also seen me through heartache and pain. There was a time at Houghton where I was ready to walk away from my faith altogether. I felt like I had been holding on too long and was just ready to be done. Not knowing this, but knowing a little bit of what I was facing in my life, she looked at me and said, “When you feel like your whole life has been burned to a pile of ashes, know that God can use those ashes to fertilize a garden.” God used that to keep me holding on and trusting in His goodness and grace. Jo-Anne’s life and her presence at Houghton is a testament to God’s mercy and God’s perfect plan in all things. She is such a blessing.
Victoria Bonners ’16
Lastly, I also need to mention Dr. KLP and Dr. Symons. As ordained women, their presence in my life as well as their wisdom have allowed me to see myself validated as a woman who wants to teach. The many conversations I have had with them either in their offices or over coffee have greatly shaped and encouraged me. Without those times and conversations, I would probably not be in an MDiv program today.
Victoria Bonners ’16
I had Dr. Meilaender for only one class, Intro to Political Thought, and it was HARD. His questions brought out the best in me. I am not a philosopher at heart, but I always looked forward to his class (except when it was test day).
Laura (Jackson ’10) Rash
Of course, no discussion of my college experience would be complete without mentioning Dr. Airhart. He was one of the three professors who led my London Honors cohort in 2007. We attended lectures on Mondays and Fridays, and Dr. Airhart’s were wonderful. He’d deal with deep, complex topics but always interject some humor. One of my Honors friends made a page-a-day calendar with quotes from our time in London, and 85% of the quotes were Dr. Airhart’s. I still have that calendar, and yes, it’s still funny! A few years after I graduated, I got to see another side of Dr. Airhart when he began teaching refugees in Buffalo. He brought the determined, creative, tongue-in-cheek quality I recognized from London Honors to developing Houghton College Buffalo. Those students are lucky to have him!
Laura (Jackson ’10) Rash
When I think of Doug Gaerte, I think of sweater vests, monkey bread, Walking Dead viewing parties on Sundays, late-night course advisory sessions filled with class logistics and course offerings but also personal and attentive care to the person and not just the student. I took a dozen or so different classes with Dr. Gaerte (Doug, now that I’ve graduated), and they all bring back a flood of memories. From the large intro courses to the smaller and more intimate classes that he taught, Doug somehow found a way to connect and engage with his students in a way that made learning fun, relaxed and almost peer to peer and not just information being handed down from on high. He was even open to teaching some classes outside if the weather was nice (a rare occurrence in Houghton), which was the true mark of a “cool professor.” I would occasionally skip classes throughout my intercollegiate career, but I always wanted to go to Dr. Gaerte’s classes. When I visited Houghton College in the spring of 2009 to sign up for the fall semesters courses, I was a high school senior who hadn’t quite figured out what this “college thing” was all about. Dr. Gaerte was the professor who sat down with me and helped me navigate this new world of classes and endless majors. Neither of us knew it then, but Dr. Gaerte would become more than just a talking head at the front of another classroom but a good friend and advisor. On one occasion, Doug came and spoke to a group of guys from the townhouses about relationships; another time, he agreed to be the guest speaker at a Bible study that I and my former Highlander group held in the chapel basement. Regardless of how it inconvenienced him, Doug was always willing to help others. He even starred in a short film that some Communication students were putting together. Dr. Gaerte was an influential presence throughout my four years at Houghton, and he continues to help me even now that my Houghton graduation is four years in the rear-view mirror. Just this last fall, we talked on the phone about the pros and cons of pursuing a master’s degree. It was after 9 p.m. on a week night, and he was still in his office in between course scheduling appointments with his current Communications students. I could go on and on about Doug, but hopefully, this gives you a glimpse into the numerous untold examples of how he helped and continues to help his former and current students be successful in their careers and personal lives.
Andrew Jones ’13
Dr. Gaerte was definitely one of my favorite professors. I was an Inclusive Childhood Education major with a concentration in Communications, so I took many Communications courses to fulfill my requirements. Growing up, I always struggled with reading aloud in front of people and even found that, as a junior-year student teacher, I still had anxiety about reading in front of my elementary students. Later in the fall of my senior year, I found myself sitting in Oral Performance of Literature, not realizing that all we were going to be doing was reading aloud! I have to admit I was terrified that first day when I realized that was what this course was about. However, as I look back, this course had a huge impact on my life. Dr. Gaerte created a comfortable environment and taught us how perform with confidence. We spent many classes laughing, practicing, listening and having fun. Now, as a teacher, I use what I learned from that course every day.
Sierra (Mitchell ’13) Dix
Dr. Sunshine Sullivan was my favorite professor and went above and beyond what one should do. She was not only your professor but was there for you on a personal level as well. I went through some personal trials while at college, and I was able to just go into her office and cry if I needed to. The crying turned into caring conversations. She even realized that maybe I was not on track with my spiritual life and pushed me in a positive way for that manner. Mornings, she would begin class with little devotions and tea. Dr. Sullivan never left you in the dust when having assignments for class. She let you ask as many questions as needed and never got frustrated. If the class did not understand one concept, she never moved onto the next until we got it. That meant, if the syllabus needed to be altered, it was no issue. She wanted to see her students succeed! Dr. Sullivan had a personality that just lit up the room when she walked in. She was always so positive, and her clothes always matched her personality. If it were not for her, I would have not graduated from Houghton, and I am so thankful for her!
Andrea Webster ’15
Several favorite professors come to mind. Dr. Stephen Woolsey, of course. He was my advisor and always so apologetic when he didn’t know all about my life—which was not at all his fault as I only made appointments to see him when it was time for him to approve my class choices for the next semester. I missed his prayers for us (“Please, I pray…”) often in my first year out of college. I still do, really. Connie Finney was another favorite—I knew her long before I had a class with her, and I continue to admire her sense of humor and independence and genuine care for her students. Susan Lipscomb was my favorite to take classes with—she never failed to challenge me, but I always understood my grades in her classes and so was able to improve in each one, resulting in an A my final semester.
Aimee Bush ’12
I am Facebook friends with a few professors, and recently, Jill Jordan chimed in on a literature-related post of mine to recommend a book to one of my local friends. I’m not sure what it was about this that I so enjoyed—the fact that it was my math professor recommending a book had something to do with it—but I think it was more the reminder that my Houghton professors are so much more than that to me, especially 5-6 years later. They are my friends. Jill was eventually my professor when I reluctantly took Intro to Calc, but I met her because she was a mom who needed a babysitter once a week, and I was willing and available. So many of my professors still remember me, and I find that remarkable considering how many students they have met since I graduated in 2012, but it isn’t so unusual for people to remember those they genuinely care about, and Houghton professors do genuinely care about their students—as individuals, not just as students.
Aimee Bush ’12
I owe a huge part of my life to Professor Bates, because it was in his class (and because of a group project assigned by him) that I first met my husband. And throughout our time at Houghton, both as individuals and as a couple, Professor Bates was always supportive and encouraging. I can remember many days sitting in his office for what started as a class-related meeting but quickly turned into a chat about life, goals for after college, etc. When I began my post-graduation job hunt, Professor Bates truly listened to me about the type of industry/job/career I wanted and provided me with many potential connections for networking. Anytime I visited Houghton after graduation, his office was one of my first stops, and he always made time to chat regardless of what else he had going on.
Bethany Dembroski ’15
When I say that Professor Gaerte was my advisor, I mean it so much more than just the “here’s what classes you should take” way. Gaerte was influential in many of my big decisions…deciding on and adding a second major, graduating early (saving thousands of dollars), obtaining an internship, and so many other key parts of my time at Houghton. On a seemingly smaller, but just as memorable, note—I will never forget all the ways he showed he cared about his students and our ability to learn. From bringing donuts to class on exam days to showing interesting movies that made the material come to life (Lars & the Real Girl comes to mind!), Gaerte is one of the most genuinely caring people I have ever known.
Bethany Dembroski ’15
Ken Bates was my advisor and professor for a number of my courses. He always had an open-door policy, and I always felt welcomed to set up a time to meet with him. He dedicated a lot of his time to helping me succeed at Houghton, plan for my future and serve as a reference for some job opportunities.
Kelli (Vogel ’12) Goossen