Last Act

Photo by Josh Ensler/For the Review

For more than 40 years, Professor of English Kenneth Ericksen has inspired learning and has been a fixture at Linfield
Story by Chelsea Langevin/Copy editor
He stands on classroom tables, recites Shakespearean sonnets from memory and reads Dr. Seuss on the last day of class. Professor of English Kenneth Ericksen prefers to perform rather than teach to keep his students engaged.
For senior English majors Nicki Tyska and Becky Joosten, Ericksen’s unique approach to teaching transformed a once dreaded course about Shakespeare into an exciting area of study.
“He presented Shakespeare in a positive light and showed that it can be taught with vigor,” Joosten said.
Ericksen plans to retire in 2010, which will mark 44 years at Linfield and the longest tenure of any professor at the college. Despite his lengthy career, Ericksen said he is not ready to retire, but decided to so that he and his wife can travel during the school year.
At the same time, Ericksen said he fears that if he continues to teach he would have to join the electronic revolution.
“I’m not electronically savvy enough for my students,” he said. Ericksen describes his animated performances in the classroom as a method to encourage students to respond “The last thing I want is for students to fall asleep in my classes,” he said.
Mrs. Donnelly, Ericksen’s high school literature teacher, performed for her classes and inadvertently inspired Ericksen to model his teaching style after hers.
“She was a profound influence on me,” he said.
Ericksen’s effort to engage and excite students has created a buzzing reputation that surrounds his courses.
“His reputation as a good professor gets around,” Tyska said. “He tries to make it so that his class is a pleasant experience rather than a requirement in the course catalog.”
Outside of the classroom, Ericksen is an approachable professor with a genuine interest in what students have to say, Tyska said.
Because Ericksen has positively impacted them, both Tyska and Joosten said they cannot imagine the English department without his energizing
Another significant contribution Ericksen has made to Linfield is the Ericksen Lectureship, a fund established for the college in honor of his late first wife. The fund invites one visiting professor each year to give a public lecture, visit classes, talk with professors and have dinner with the English department, Ericksen said.
As far as teaching college classes goes, he said that his favorite part is talking to students. Ericksen said he loves teaching, and that it’s more fun than work.
“It has been a very rich experience for me,” Ericksen said.

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