Half a century ago, we English majors had the good life. It was the rite of passage to befriend one of the professors in our majors and hold on for dear life. We found excuses to worm our way into their lives. That was a different time so those Mr. Chips and Mrs. Chips were available, at least in liberal arts colleges.
The Mrs. Chips I took hostage was my freshman composition professor Joanne Boyle. My fellow English majors at Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pennsylvania such as Liz Donnelly chose Sister Colette and Sally Spahn seemed to be pursuing Sister Lynn. Those relationships, which made us feel special, probably got us through the brutal reality that the world of work didn't put great value on English majors. You majored in what! The business degree was everything.
It took decades to recognize that our emotional props had their own lives and even ambitions. Boyle went on to become president of Seton Hill. Her role essentially seemed like a turnaround agent. The institution was able to change with the times.
In June Boyle will retire. With her exit the curtain comes down on a very different era in college life. Today English professors are likely too preoccupied surviving in a downsizing field to be available for needy undergraduates.