Hamilton alumni, students, and colleagues send well-wishes and thanks to five members of the faculty who entered the world of retirement at the conclusion of the 2023-24 academic year. We asked them to reflect on their time on College Hill and what’s next.
Dave Bailey
Winslow Chair of Modern Science and Professor of Geosciences


What will you miss most about your work as a professor?
The two things I will miss the most are: 1) sharing my enthusiasm for geology, and for exploration and learning in general, with Hamilton students, and 2) working and interacting every day with incredibly bright and dedicated faculty and staff.

What was your favorite course to teach?
While I have enjoyed teaching all of my courses for different reasons, I probably have enjoyed teaching my required course in mineralogy the most. While it was a very challenging course for both me and my students (meeting five days a week at 8:30 or 9 a.m.!), I loved having the opportunity to expose Hamilton students to an entirely new way of viewing and understanding the materials that make up our planet, and how fundamental symmetry and chemistry are to understanding the natural world.

Was there any one defining moment of your career at Hamilton — something you are most proud to have accomplished?
Not really. There are a lot of small accomplishments that I am proud of, but probably what means the most to me is when I get an email or postcard from an alum thanking me for something I did either inside or outside the classroom that impacted their life; these are the accomplishments that are the most meaningful to me.

If you could start over, would you still choose geosciences? Teaching? 
Great question! To be honest, I am fascinated and interested in many different things, and I’m sure that with slightly different opportunities and experiences during my high school and college years I could have easily gone down a very different path. That said, I have no regrets about my career; I truly love geology and feel very fortunate to have ended up at Hamilton College. It really was a perfect fit.

What’s next for you?
For the immediate future, a lot of my time will be spent training a new puppy and cleaning out decades of collected rocks from the Science Center. After that I hope to retire to Maine to be closer to family and to spend more time kayaking, hiking, and playing drums and guitar.

Debra Boutin
Samuel F. Pratt Professor of Mathematics and Statistics


What was your favorite course to teach?
My favorite courses were Linear Algebra, Modern Algebra, and Counting & Codes. These courses, and others, focus on taking some basic problem-solving skills in one concrete area, abstracting and generalizing them, and producing theorems and algorithms applicable to numerous areas throughout mathematics and science. It is fun to show the evolution from the bottom up.

What would you say has changed the most at the College? What has stayed the same?
For me what has stayed the same is the feel of a small liberal arts college where the faculty values and strives to know individual students, and the administration values and strives to know individual faculty members. To me what has changed most is our students. Each year they seem to get better — even nicer, more sincere, harder working, more enjoyable to teach.

What one piece of advice do you have for graduating seniors?
My life has included being an enlisted member of the Navy right out of high school, being a single mother in poverty, being a nontraditional college/grad student 12 years older than my student peers, being a faculty member doing research and teaching students — and loving it all. My conclusion is that life often doesn’t moves in a straight line. When it doesn’t go as we expect, it is possible to find a way to get to our goal, or a different goal, or an even better goal, by hanging in there and looking for opportunities. Don’t give up when life puts up obstacles. You can build the life you want.

If you could start over, would you still choose mathematics? Teaching?
I have loved my career as a mathematician. However, during my time at Hamilton and through friendships with the Physics Department, I’ve come to realize that there are many aspects of physics that draw me. Maybe, if I had another lifetime, I would explore other sciences as well. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t know that I wanted to teach. I pursued a teaching job because that’s what you do if you want to be a mathematician. However, the students at Hamilton soon convinced me that I can also love to teach. They made it fun and rewarding.

What’s next for you?
Though I am retiring from teaching, I hope to remain active in mathematical research. I am looking forward to having more time and energy to put into research and more flexibility to travel to conferences. In addition, my flower gardens and my two puppies will enjoy the extra attention I can give them now.

Herm Lehman
Professor of Biology


What will you miss most about your work as a professor?
I will miss students, their energy, enthusiasm, and excellence, but I will most miss working with my colleagues at the College, in my department, programs, and at the Levitt Center. I enjoy wrestling with hard problems, thinking creatively about the issues and solutions, and coming to a common solution. Through this work arises respect and friendship, and it is these lasting relationships that I will miss the most.

What was your favorite course to teach?
I have been lucky to teach what I want at Hamilton and have two favorite courses. First, I taught some version of cell biology for more than 30 years and have enjoyed learning about cells and neurons from multiple vantage points as the field progressed from the study of proteins to genomes. I have witnessed and taught about the cloning of the first mammal (Dolly), RNAi, the mapping of genomes, the cellular mechanisms of a circadian clock, the creation of stem cells from mature skin cells, to robotic arms controlled by the brain – what a wonderful time to be a cell biologist!

Secondly, I became interested in public health at Hamilton (perhaps because of my interest in inverts and vectors of disease) and have enjoyed teaching Introduction to Public Health and Health Systems. I have reached out to our community members to develop these courses (Oneida County Public Health Department, Community Foundation of Utica), and through these relationships I have learned and taught about many health and community issues (e.g., Native Americans in higher education, HIV, lead contamination, norovirus, COVID-19, refugees, new hospital downtown, rural health, homelessness). I have often said that Utica is big enough to have big city problems, but small enough to do something about these problems. I was thrilled — and often saddened — to learn and share this knowledge with others.

What would you say has changed the most at the College? What has stayed the same?
Looking back to when I first arrived at Hamilton, the most notable change has been the renovation and expansion of its campus facilities (the Taylor Science Center is the best!) and the creation of new programs to meet the ever-evolving educational opportunities. However, what has essentially stayed the same is Hamilton’s excellent students, commitment to fostering a supportive learning environment, and its dedication to academic excellence.

If you could start over, would you still choose biology? Teaching?
Absolutely yes and yes! I have no regrets about working/researching in the biological sciences and teaching about the topics that I have found most interesting. Our knowledge of the workings of a cell has changed so much over the past 30 years – reflecting on my journey in this discipline, I can say it’s been both challenging and a privilege.

What’s next for you?
A bit of exercise, a bit of reading and writing, a bit of construction, and a bit of nothing at all.

Bill Salzillo
Kevin W. Kennedy Professor of Art


The artist, teacher, and gallery director is the last member of the Hamilton faculty to have begun his tenure as a professor at Kirkland College. Read an interview from the latest issues of Hamilton magazine.

Michael “Doc” Woods
Margaret Bundy Scott Professor of Music


What will you miss most about your work as a professor?
Just that back-and-forth energy between inquisitive, ambitious students and myself, being an old fart but still excited about having a vista to the future.

What was your favorite class that you taught or ensemble that you directed?
Can I give you a double answer? Favorite class, African-American Popular Music. Without question — because Black people have done so many things in every form of popular music that is so funky, so hip, so informed, and so thoughtful and tasty. And also it’s a way, probably the single best way, that people of color can validate themselves in a non-combative fashion.

The second half of the answer is Jazz Ensemble. And the reason why is because I’ve got this thing about being hooked on sound. To me, sound is the coolest thing because it’s something that’s alive, it’s something that’s volatile, it’s something that can be identified and yet remains mysterious. I like it when sounds are informed. When a jazz person gets ready to play something and it don’t sound jazzy, then I’m saying, “Okay, what is this kid missing? Oh, he’s playing all the right notes, but I don’t hear a lived experience in what he’s playing.” … That’s all nice technical stuff, but that ain’t the blues. The nature of the blues is negativity without closure. And you play the blues to beat the blues, but you can’t beat the blues if you ain’t never been through nothing.

What was one defining moment of your career at Hamilton?
Five, six years ago, there was a letter in my mailbox … and it said, “Congratulations, you’ve been promoted to an endowed chair.” I thought to myself, there’s probably one major reason why that happened. And that is the students finally got hold of me. When I first got here, the way that I teach, they didn’t think my elevator went to the top. And finally they got to the place that if you were in my presence for more than five minutes, I’m teaching you. I’m not teaching you some dry, academic fashion out of a textbook. And when we get done talking and having a Diet Coke and some hot wings, I say, there’s not going to be an exam. But when I count off this next tune in a performance, and I ask you to take a solo, that’s your exam. If you can get in front of people to play and entertain them and make them happy, you passed. And finally they said, that’s the way I teach ... [it's] not that his elevator don’t go to the top — it goes out of the building.

What’s been most rewarding?
It takes [students] a while to wake up. And when they do wake up, then they become wonderfully intelligent, fantastic citizens of a much larger scenario than just me, me, me, me, me, me. … Sometimes I get through to them and say, “Now the least you can do is prepare yourself to be sensitive enough and aware enough that when you find people that don’t have one third of what you got, have a little compassion. See if you can help somebody. Whose day can you make better because you were in it?”

Now the next thing is, what does that sound like? It ought to be happy and funky and hip and cool and informed. It should make people participate, clap their hands and tap their feet. And you ought to point people to a realm where some of the things they hope for and dream about at least have some chance of happening. To me, those moments, those wake-up moments, are worth it. Oh, that’s worth everything.

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