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A Sea Change on the Hill, part 2

By Phyllis Hanlon

Left to right: William Green, Kenneth Happe ’58, Frank Kaseta, Thomas LawlerWilliam Green

Noting that he is “just leaving his day job,” William Green retired after 37 years in the history department at Holy Cross at the conclusion of the spring 2001 semester. Since 1964, Green has served twice as department chair and has held a position “on virtually every committee at the College.” Along with innumerable standout memories, he departs with a sense of satisfaction that he has been able to devote his “limited talents” to an institution that he has found to be extremely well-managed and well-administered.

According to Green, in 1964 the school resembled a small parochial institution with a fairly narrow clientele. “Now Holy Cross is contending for leadership among all schools in the country,” he says. “We have made changes of a far greater nature than any of the 20 other colleges to which we compare ourselves.” Although other schools have implemented changes during the last four decades, he notes that those initiated at Holy Cross are “colossal” and reflect a “qualitative difference.”

Green credits Rev. Raymond J. Swords, S.J., and Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., with the successful implementation of many of these changes. “Father Brooks represents the cornerstone, the nucleus of Holy Cross. He was behind the extraordinary evolution at the College,” he says. “Without him, there would still have been changes, but not so dramatic.”

One of the most “transforming moments” in the history of the school, in Green’s opinion, was the shift to coeducation. “For Holy Cross this was a giant leap forward,” he says. “The admission of women added to the intellectual fiber of the school and brought positive social effects.”

As he makes the transition into retirement, Green will focus on a massive history book project. “As an undergraduate professor, it’s hard to spend the time to write,” he says. Exploring the subject of the “great losers and lost causes in Western European history,” Green will travel to France to gather research material for the book. Recently he spent three weeks in Italy amassing data for the project, which he admits is much larger than he first imagined. Additionally, he will travel “just for the sake of traveling.”

Kenneth Happe ’58

After having spent close to 50 years at Holy Cross—first as a transfer student from a Jesuit seminary and then as a faculty member—Kenneth Happe is departing for exotic ports and domestic enterprises. He leaves behind his indelible handprint on the institution, which, according to Happe, has undergone significant changes.

Noting that the world in general has seen revolutions in every area imaginable, Happe indicates that Holy Cross has experienced its own transformations, not all of them positive in nature. He cites the diminishing number of Jesuit faculty and administrators with dismay. “That is the major crisis at Holy Cross as it must have been at Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale when their church staff dwindled away,” he says. “Some students get through Holy Cross with a handful of contacts with Jesuits.” Currently, 12 Jesuits teach full time at the school out of a faculty of more than 220.

Happe also expressses concern for the challenges that faculty face as they focus on publishing and establishing themselves in an attempt to obtain tenure. By concentrating on writing in their fields, professors have less time to devote to the process of “touching a student’s mind, heart or soul,” according to Happe.

Looking back at the ’60s and ’70s, Happe recalls many special moments with school alumni. “‘Killer charades’ until dawn with a carload of alumni from Manhattan” spring to mind, he says. During his career at Holy Cross, he formed many strong connections with students who shared the same interests. “I remember some fun theatrical productions I did with the students over the past 40 or so years, mostly in obscure spaces on campus,” he says. “Most of my best friends are alumni.”

Happe’s retirement will be anything but restful. “Three hours after graduation, I flew to London, then to Istanbul for a two-week archeological tour of Turkey,” he says. He’ll then spend 10 days finishing his “compulsive tour of the Aegean islands.” So far he has visited 15 and plans to see 20 more, including Lesbos, Chios and Patmos. Before returning to the United States, he stopped in Athens to visit with alumni.

On the home front, Happe will supervise major renovations to his Holden, Mass., home. “Things I’ve needed to do for the past 10 years,” he says. An active member of the Shakespeare Club and the Dickens Fellowship, both of Worcester, he’ll continue to attend meetings regularly. In between all these activities, he plans to spend some time reading. “I’ll try to plow through the hundreds of books I’ve bought over the past decade from a wonderfully tempting remaindered bookseller in Connecticut,” he says. As long as his health holds up, Happe intends to enjoy some respite and find ways to continue his passion for “creating inquiring minds.”

Frank Kaseta

A person can accumulate a lot of memories in 36 years at one job. So says Frank Kaseta, associate professor of physics, as he retires after a three-decade tenure at Holy Cross. Since 1964, he has seen the development of a coed curriculum, a tremendous amount of building on campus and increased faculty participation in governance and administration.

Kaseta raves about Swords Hall, a major construction project that enabled the science departments to enlarge significantly. Focusing on the benefits to the physics department, he cites the addition of space for laboratory equipment and a large research library.

The growth of Holy Cross brings with it some mixed blessings, though, according to Kaseta. With an increase in faculty and students, the environment has changed somewhat from his early days at the College. “The atmosphere was more informal and friendly then,” he says. “The faculty all knew one another. We’d sit and eat lunch together.” Now the school has become more “institutionalized,” he says. But Kaseta notes that these changes are not entirely negative. “One advantage to being more formal is that everyone knows procedures better now,” he says. “Sometimes informality can lead to inequities.”

Although he’ll visit his colleagues on campus periodically, Kaseta does not intend to spend time in the lab pursuing further research in his field. “Commuting is not practical right now,” he says. He is glad to leave behind the long, and sometimes harried, drive from his Norwood, Mass., home. Instead, he’ll spend significant time enjoying his new granddaughter. In between sessions with the stroller, he plans to read and catch up on some “homestead” activity.

“There are lots of things that I have let slide,” he says. A ham radio operator and member of a couple of related organizations, Kaseta will also devote more time to his favorite hobby.

Thomas Lawler

As director of graduate studies for four years, Professor Thomas Lawler experienced firsthand the impact that women had on the framework of Holy Cross. When he began teaching in the English department in the fall of 1966, Lawler points out the scarcity of women faculty. “I recall that there was a part-time woman teacher in the English department and another in psychology,” he says. In time, that situation changed, as did the makeup of the student body. “When women students came, it made a big difference socially,” he says. “They also strengthened Holy Cross academically.”

As a member of the premed committee the last two years, Lawler has reviewed applications for just as many women as men. “Ten or 15 years back, there would have been far more males,” he says. Additionally, women have bolstered the College’s honors and athletics programs, according to Lawler.

Another important change was the establishment of guidelines for hiring and granting tenure through the Committee on Tenure and Promotion (CTP). “It took a tremendous amount of faculty work to negotiate, structure and set up procedures,” Lawler says. By working together, the administration, trustees and faculty laid the foundation for the current system of teacher input during the hiring and tenure process. “The Dean’s Office still gives final approval,” he says, “ but the system operates from and by the faculty perspective.”

Lawler indicates that the new structure has brought a higher level of professionalism to the school. An unexpected benefit of the CTP, according to Lawler, is the formation of strong, lasting relationships between students and faculty. Before hiring, each department looks at a potential faculty member’s classroom manner and people skills in addition to scholarly achievements, he says.

Of note in the Holy Cross tradition, Lawler says, is the impact of the College’s presidents, most notably Fr. Swords and Fr. Brooks. Much of the student unrest occurred during Fr. Swords’ tenure. Composed, strong, and with real understanding, he moved the school into the modern era, according to Lawler. A number of times he averted what could have been crisis situations, he says.

Fr. Brooks promoted the idea of academic excellence, grounds maintenance and new building on campus. Lawler has been able to watch Smith Hall take shape through his office window. “The new hall will give us a college center that we never quite had before,” he says. Through Fr. Brooks’ efforts, the student body has been elevated to a new standard as well. “He had a firm hand on every aspect of the school,” says Lawler. “He created the new Holy Cross.”

Upon retirement, Lawler plans to return to the school, but in a different capacity. “I’ll sit in on some Italian classes,” he says. With some basic phrases under his belt and a desire to return to Italy where he lived for nine months, he feels the lessons will give him a more solid grasp of the language.

He and his wife also intend to tutor inmates at the Worcester House of Corrections who are interested in Catholicism. Between the social work, reading, attending concerts and lectures at Holy Cross and puttering in his garden, Lawler expects “to fit in all the things he always wanted to do, but never could.”


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