1/1/2007 Where are they now? Jim Duke and Tom Gressler
When Jim Duke '58 retired from the Linfield College Psychology Department in 1998, it didn't take him long to pick up a hammer and begin a new endeavor with Habitat for Humanity - one month, to be exact.
Duke, emeritus professor of psychology who served 30 years on the Linfield faculty, began as a construction worker and eventually became construction coordinator for the McMinnville Habitat Office, helping build 17 houses over the past eight years. Though he recently stepped down from that volunteer position, his work with Habitat will continue, he said.
"There's a need for people to have safe, comfortable, affordable housing and this is a good way to help people accomplish that," he said. "I wanted to contribute to society and I like to work with my hands."
Jim is married to Lucita '72, an experienced quilt maker, who leads a group which makes and donates quilts to CASA and Juliette's House, two local agencies supporting children in need.
The Dukes are avid travelers, and have spent more than 122 days on various cruises. Their trips include Europe, the Mediterranean and South America. They recently returned from a 24-day cruise, during which they traveled from Capetown, South Africa, to the Amazon River, through the Caribbean and to Florida. Next, they plan to visit Australia and New Zealand.
Duke can often be found on campus, catching up with colleagues and cheering on the Wildcat football team.
"I get together with faculty from time to time and we solve the world's problems and the problems of the college," he said with a laugh.
His memories of Linfield, more than four decades worth as both a student and professor, are positive.
"I enjoy the camaraderie of the college and the ability to get to know students," he said. "I enjoy the tenor of the whole campus. It was a fun place to be, both as a student and as a faculty member."
Little has changed for Tom Gressler, emeritus professor of theatre arts, since his retirement from Linfield College in 2000. He's still fully immersed in the theatre and he can be found working with Linfield students.
Gressler, who taught at Linfield for 20 years, is currently directing his third Linfield play since retirement, "Women in Congress," the upcoming production in Marshall Theatre. It will run March 20-23 at 8 p.m.
"The joy is in seeing them grow," Gressler said of students. "Seeing them risk things, and after sometimes a tough period, realize they're capable of doing so much more than they ever thought. That is a kick. It's almost like watching something bloom."
Off campus, Gressler remains active in other theatrical pursuits. Last year he directed "Claptrap" at Gallery Theater in January and "When Dreams Come True," an original show in Bellingham, Wash., in May.
He continues to write plays as well. His most recent script, "Occasions of Sin," which he's hoping to have produced, had staged readings at the Coho Theatre in the fall of 2004 and at the Northwest Playwrights Project in Tacoma, Wash., in April. Not one to limit himself to one genre of writing, Gressler has also written two children's stories, "The Mystery of the Disappearing Toys" and "The Best Christmas Ever Ever," both of which he hopes to have published.
When he's not tackling theatrical pursuits, Gressler's artistic nature comes through as garden manager for the Smith Rhododendron Garden. He and his wife, Jane, attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland each year and enjoy travel and going to the theatre.
Gressler has fond memories of Linfield and stays connected through colleagues and campus events.
"It was the best job I've ever had," he said. "I do miss my colleagues and the students especially. It was the most rewarding time in my life."