Tidbits & Briefs

Sammy Basu is Willamette's 11th Oregon Professor of the Year

Sammy Basu

When he was beginning his teaching career at Willamette, Sammy Basu was a bit of a prankster.

He’d arrive to class early and take a seat in the back of the room, assuming the “standard, slumped student position.” Then he’d wait, eavesdropping on the conversations that unfurled around him.

When the moment was right, Basu would leap to his feet and announce his true identity. To this day, he chuckles at the memory of his students’ reactions.

“Jaws would drop. Students would look dazed and confused,” says Basu, who teaches politics. “There were challenges to my authority early on because I looked so young. That always amused me. The obvious lesson was, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’”

Twenty years later, Basu’s use of the element of surprise is still central to his desire to improve his students’ lives. This dedication has earned him the honor of being named the 2013 Oregon Professor of the Year.

Recognized for his innovative courses and his passion for teaching, Basu joins the ranks of 10 other Willamette professors who have received the award since 1990 — two of whom also hail from the politics department.

The honor is administered by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Basu received his award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Nov. 14.

“It’s humbling and terrifying,” Basu says. “I know the past recipients at Willamette, and they are all gifted teachers. To be counted among them is a great honor.”

— Erin Dahl

The Tradition

Willamette is home to more Oregon Professors of the Year than any other institution. Since the program’s inception in 1990, 11 awards have been made to our faculty. Our team of teachers remains one of our most obvious good fortunes.

Think about it: Which one(s) of these professors impacted you? Which teacher, even one not on this list, instantly comes to mind when you think of intellectual life here?

Then: Which one became a better friend than you’d imagined?

Congratulations, and especially thanks, to every professor at Willamette who makes a difference like these ones have.

  • Holman


    Karen McFarlane Holman, chemistry
    Read more

  • Richard Ellis, politics


    Richard Ellis, politics
    Read more

  • Holman


    Jerry Gray, economics
    Read more

  • Suresht Bald, politics


    Suresht Bald, politics

  • William Duvall, history


    William Duvall, history

  • Daniel Montague, physics


    Daniel Montague, physics

  • Arthur Payton, chemistry


    Arthur Payton, chemistry

  • Roger Hull, art history


    Roger Hull, art history
    Read more

  • Mary Ann Youngren, psychology


    Mary Ann Youngren, psychology

  • Frances Chapple, chemistry


    Frances Chapple, chemistry

Sparks Athletic Center to Reopen

Sparks construction

The paint is hardly dry, but students, administrators and faculty are ecstatic.

After months of imagining what was going on behind those temporary plywood walls, Sparks Athletic Center’s users are getting their first glimpses of the new space. The building, built in 1974, underwent the first of two planned renovation stages last semester. At press time, reopening is just a few weeks away.

The most obvious (and heartening) change is that the main-floor fitness center is now vastly larger than it was. It’s filled with brand-new workout equipment — twice as much as before. There’s even a freedom climber, which is a rotating rock-climbing wall that will augment the apparatus that’s been downstairs for years.

“There’s still work to be done, and it’s very important work,” says Athletic Director Dave Rigsby ’00. “But there’s no denying that this is a pretty impressive start.”

The first phase also includes a new, expanded sports-medicine facility.

The second phase of construction will take workers down into the lower floor and into the locker rooms and team rooms. These spaces were built at a time when sports programs were much different than today, and they need to be brought to contemporary standards.

Phase two construction is expected to begin later in 2014.

The Official Seal

Former Hatfield staffers and their “great seal.” From left to right: James Fitzhenry JD’81, MBA’81; Mark Walker MBA’85; Gary Barbour ‘76; Walter Evans III JD’67; Rick Rolf; Vic Gilliam

Mark Walker MBA’85 picked up the last issue of The Scene and saw the odd seal sculpture pictured in the Campus Conversations interview with Mary McRobinson, university archivist.

It made him think of his days with Senator Mark Hatfield ’43.

Here’s what he told us:

The seal was made in 1981 by Stephen Kohashi, a longtime professional staff member on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He made it in his garage out of papier-mâché and multiple coats of lacquer. Kohashi and committee Staff Director Keith Kennedy, who helped conceive of the idea, presented it to Senator Hatfield (chairman of the Appropriations Committee from 1981–1987 and 1995–1997) as “The Great Seal of the Senate Appropriations Committee” (pun intended).

Senator Hatfield was very much taken with the amusing sculpture and displayed it in the Appropriations Committee’s opulent suite of offices in the U.S. Capitol. The dollar sign balancing on the seal’s nose represents, if anything, the committee’s role in funding the discretionary spending programs of the federal government, a delicate balancing act in itself.

Shortly after Walker saw the seal, a group of former Hatfield staffers led by Gary Barbour ’76 organized a rare visit to Willamette. It was ostensibly a chance for them to have one more photo op with the lacquered mascot and visit the archive, but it turned into a public event and mass retelling of some of the best tales from the Senate.

Here’s to all those great Willamette political stories lurking out there.

Winter Notes


The Willamette University Chamber Choir and the Willamette Singers spent much of January spreading some WU joy on a tour through California and Oregon. In the photo above, Professor Wallace Long and crew are in the Rogers Music Center, right where we like them best.

For the most up-to-date Willamette news and events, remember to check your email inbox each month for "WU News", our electronic newsletter. Not receiving it? Just email us: alumni@willamette.edu.

Also, remember Facebook: facebook.com/willamettealumni.