If a student were to walk into her office, the first thing that student would notice is that her room is a lovely shade of welcoming green. Next, the student would notice the boxes stacked with books, the shelves waiting to be packed, and the papers waiting to be filed away. After 30 years, Dr. Laura Gellott, a history professor here at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, will retire in May.
“I guess UW-Parkside chose me,” Dr. Gellott stated. “1982 was another one of those years where there were way more Ph.D.’s finishing graduate school than there were jobs…I remember sending out 17 applications to schools that were advertising for jobs in European History of any sort. I argued that I could teach it whatever it was.”
In 1982, after sending out applications across the nation, Dr. Gellott had invitations for interviews from four campuses, UW-Parkside being one of them. After completing the interviews for each of the campuses, Dr. Gellott received a campus interview from UW-Parkside. Much like the recent history candidates this past year that had campus interviews, Dr. Gellott taught a class and had a daylong interview on campus. A week after the campus interview, Dr. Gellott got a phone call telling her she had gotten the job.
The thought of retirement first came to Dr. Gellott a couple of years ago, many aspects influencing her decision to retire in May 2012.
“There’s a nice roundness to the number 30,” she said.
So, what are Dr. Gellott’s plans after retirement? Her schedule will consist of reading and gardening, along with exploring some volunteer programs, among other things. The first book she has set aside to read is by historian Tony Judt’s wife, Jennifer Homans, called Apollo’s Angels.
“I wanted to leave while I was still really enjoying it,” she stated. “I didn’t want to do what I have seen other people do…stay too long and then the ending isn’t happy. So I thought, ‘Let’s go out on a high note.’”
Many people wonder if Dr. Gellott plans to travel, but having been lucky enough to visit Europe 15 times (many of her visits correlated with her research and field), she looks forward to just staying home. She plans to visit again and see the places she has not yet visited, but for now, she’d like to “[see] what my home looks like by daylight!”
“The trick will be to avoid doing too many things, which tends to be a pattern that I fall into.”
The combination of the 30th anniversary, turning 60, and leaving on a high note all influenced Dr. Gellott’s decision to end her career at UW-Parkside. Though, undoubtedly, many students and faculty will miss her.
“Professor Gellott has been a driving force in the history department and in the university for three decades. She was a model of integrity, and she was passionate about her subject matter, this institution, and most importantly, her students. I’ll miss her daily counsel, but I hope she’ll stay close to the university and come back often!” said Dr. Edward Schmitt, also of the History Department.
Dr. Gellott has many qualities that make her a fabulous professor. No one would argue with the fact that she has excellent knowledge about European History and the subjects she teaches.
“She lives in her field,” said Dr. Moats, another colleague of Dr. Gellott’s. “The events she talks about are real to her.”
Dr. Moats described Dr. Gellott as efficient and professional. “She’s someone who gets a lot done…[and] anything that bears her name will obviously be good.”
When asked what some of her good experiences or highlights of her career at UW-Parkside has been, the first thing that came to Dr. Gellott’s mind was the fact that on of her students, while in Berlin on the night of 9 November 1989, brought her a piece of the Wall he had chopped off. It is also a pleasure for her to see former students succeed.
“I still come away every time looking forward to the next class and I know that’s going to be an adjustment…it’s just starting to dawn on me now that this is wrapping up pretty soon and I’m not sure what it’s going to feel like when there’s not another class to teach…the students and the teaching has really been the highlight for me.”
Dr. Gellott’s influential teaching style and the way she makes history fun to learn and listen to makes her a favorite amongst students.
“Dr. Gellott happens to be one of my favorite history professors at Parkside,” said history major Lisa Gagliardo. “She is very inspiring and I have always loved taking classes with her because of her eloquent teaching style.”
Throughout the duration of her career at UW-Parkside, Dr. Gellott has taught 12 different courses. While she has enjoyed every course for different reasons, some of her favorites are her Europe Since 1945 class and her German History class. Dr. Gellott has also done some administrative work at UW-Parkside and was the Chair of the History Department from 2003-2011.
“I’m very grateful to UW-Parkside for giving me a chance [to teach],” Dr. Gellott said.
The one thing Dr. Gellott wants students to take away from her classes is this: “That they understand that it’s important to know and appreciate history, to know and appreciate the past…I hope that by learning about an area someplace else, it helps to open people’s eyes to the bigger world out there and to the fact that they too can go visit that world…I would also hope that one of the things that people is that you can really be excited about ideas and be excited about learning…that the whole world of books…is an interesting world to live in. The world of ideas.”
The loss of such an amazing professor and colleague will be felt throughout the entire university. Dr. Gellott has had an affect on students and faculty alike and will be missed by those who have come to know her. Those same people hope that retirement treats Dr. Gellott kindly and that she comes to visit! One thing is for sure: the History Department will not be the same without her.