Religion prof to retire after 39 years at BW



The Baldwin Wallace Department of Religion will lose one of its longest-standing members this summer, making the already small department even smaller.

Dr. Robert Fowler, longstanding professor in the department, will be retiring this summer after 39 years.

Fowler said he has had a long and successful teaching career, and he feels now is the time to retire.

“I’ll have a career of 41 years, which is long enough for anyone, I think,” he said. “I’ll be ready to step aside.”

Of Fowler’s 41 years of teaching, 39 were spent at BW, and about 24 were spent as religion department chair.

Fowler is grateful for the time spent here, he said, and will most miss the “give and take” he’s had over the years with the students. He will also miss the relationships he’s made with his colleagues.

After retirement, Fowler said that he plans to live a quiet life with his wife in their home and visit their children as much as possible.

“And I’ll read some of the books that didn’t get read,” he said, glancing up at the hundreds of books filling his office.

Upon Fowler’s departure, his collegues say they will miss his presence on campus.

“He’ll be missed, especially as a colleague,” said Dr. Ellen Posman, current chair of the Department of Religion. “He’s seen as a symbol on campus as someone who takes his scholarship really seriously and is world renowned for the work that he does.”

Fowler looks back fondly at his time at BW, he said.  While there have been ups and downs in his career, he said that most of the memories have been good ones.

“On the whole, this has been a very good experience, so I’m glad to have been here,” he said.

Posman said Fowler will be greatly missed, and he will be a great loss to the department. Posman said that BW administration turned down the request the department made to hire another religion professor to make up for the loss of Fowler retiring, which puts the other religion professors in a tight situation.

“We will be forced to do just as much with less,” Posman said.

The three remaining religion professors will have to condense their own classes down, Posman explained, so that they are able to pick up the classes Fowler taught. As a result, the department will be offering fewer sections of classes next year.

Posman said that the administration will not hire another professor because the enrollment for the department is so small. In the past, students were required to take a religion course to graduate. Now that the core has changed, taking a religion class is just one of the many options students have to fulfill core requirements. Because of this, enrollment is down in the department.

The core being changed isn’t necessarily a problem for religion professors, said Posman, but it is a big problem for the university because religion is an important topic and one that students should be educated about.

“I think it’s going to leave some holes in our curriculum,” she said.

The religion department will be hosting a retirement reception for Fowler on Thursday, May 2 from 2:30-4:30pm. The reception is to honor and celebrate the work and relationships Fowler has made throughout his teaching career. The reception is open to everyone and is a chance for friends of Fowler to say goodbye.

“I can’t say enough nice things about him,” said Posman. “He’s been a great colleague.”