In August the faculty and students of the English programs at UWG unanimously declared 2006-07 as “The Year of Rob” to honor Professor Robert L. Snyder, who will retire in May after fifteen years of stellar service to our programs, the institution, and the discipline of literary studies. Professor Snyder’s colleagues (and Professor Snyder, too, we assume) have been wearing their “official” Year-of-Rob tee-shirts since the first faculty meeting in August.
The faculty’s decisive win over the students in our fall kickball game was immediately dedicated to Professor Snyder. The Student Advisory Committee invited Professor Snyder to be the distinguished scholar at our Toto-Pulls-the-Curtain Luncheon in January. At that event, he presented a talk on his recent scholarship in the field of espionage fiction after being introduced by senior Melanie Beal, who had been one of his students as had her mother, who also attended.
Perhaps most significantly, in February, by the unanimous vote of his tenured colleagues, supported by the recommendation of his department chair, Professor Snyder’s name has been sent forward to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia as an exemplary candidate for the title of Professor Emeritus, a distinction reserved for only those faculty whose contributions to their institutions have been a model for all to embrace and whose work has set a standard that subsequent generations of scholars may use to inspire their careers.
Among the evidence presented in those recommendations are these thoughts about Professor Snyder and his time at UWG:
The excellence that defines our programs today can be traced directly to Professor Snyder’s arrival at West Georgia as Chair, as well as Professor of English, in 1992. The breadth and depth of his contributions as
an administrator, scholar, teacher, and colleague are, in one sense, immeasurable, revealing themselves quite suddenly in tangible and intangible ways as we evolve as a department. But, in an equally real way, those contributions and influences are measurable.
They can be measured in the dramatic rise in published scholarship and creative work that one can chart among our faculty since 1992. Before the College of Arts and Sciences codified a reduction in teaching duties for faculty with a defined, productive scholarly agenda, Professor Snyder, as chair, established practices that allowed such faculty to benefit from a reduced teaching load.
His commitment to curricular reform, made evident from the day he arrived, creates another straight line to the extraordinary increase in the number of English majors and graduates at the institution. His vision for faculty governance and meaningful service is the genesis of our current committee structure and for the ways in which both long-time and incoming faculty have been mentored to consider their service responsibilities.
In the five years that Professor Snyder chaired the department, he interviewed applicants for tenure-eligible positions in the program at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association. The result of that demanding, difficult work, seeing in a single day ten or more highly intelligent, clearly focused academics about whose work an interviewer must be knowledgeable and enthusiastic, has been a faculty within our department of ever-increasing scholarly and teaching excellence. In the most essential ways, we are what we are because of the vision of Professor Snyder.
His contributions also reveal themselves in the ways in which his subtle, unobtrusive modeling of rigorous but caring instruction, high standards for writing, and thorough, significant scholarly contribution permeate the department’s younger faculty. Students revere Professor Snyder; they marvel at his knowledge, his integrity, his quiet kindness. Colleagues truly wonder at his strong, reassuring presence among us. In a very real sense, he has taught and continues to teach all who move through this program—faculty, students, and staff—who we want to be and how to become that desired thing.
As The Year of Rob nears its close, we begin to wonder what our departmental life can possibly be without him. One benefit of emeritus status for us is that Professor Snyder will always be a part of us, will continue to be among us, influencing and leading as he always has.
The Year isn’t over quite yet, though, so stay tuned for news about forthcoming events. You might want to send Professor Snyder a message to wish him well in this new segment of his life. Susan Holland will keep an electronic “notebook” of such messages if you send them via her at firstname.lastname@example.org. In May we will present Professor Snyder with an actual notebook of all your good wishes for him.
--Dr. Jane Hill