Letter – In Praise of Andrew Logemann

I’ll begin with the obvious and true: Andrew Logemann is a lovely, optimistic, intelligent, thoughtful and affirming person—someone we’re all pleased to know and work with.

These several (of many) attractive traits mattered significantly when Andrew arrived at Gordon as a new hire: at the time our English Department was (how to phrase this?) in the final moments of what had been a fairly prolonged period of stormy weather, and Andrew’s new presence helped usher in the brighter day we now enjoy. I pay tribute here to the delicate and diplomatic work done by Janis Flint-Ferguson and then Andrea Frankwitz as department chair—work that kept our craft right and directioned under difficulty. I might even say “under duress,” because in the first year or two of Andrew’s appointment our department meetings were enough to cause a fellow two migraines—one before and one after. I feared at the time that Andrew might abandon our shaky ship, and though I couldn’t blame him if he did, I kept murmuring to him some version of “I hope we keep you.”

This is all well and good, but why did I murmur this to him over the years? I murmured because Andrew’s commitments and excellences became quickly apparent—his competence as a teacher, his commitment to scholarship, his gyroscopic impact on our English department, his engagement with the ethos of the college and of a liberal arts education, and his discernible commitment to improving as a teacher and scholar, a colleague and a Christian.

The previous wordy sentence only headlines a few of my reasons for my murmurings, and now I despair at being able to trace in fine detail the wide-ranging and salutary impact Andrew has had on our people and programs. Fortunately for me, Andrew’s achievements are well known.

Still, let some specifics here insinuate the pattern.

Andrew’s leadership in our department has been capable from the get-go, and it’s been a pleasure to see him grow in confidence as chair. This is right and good: he has obvious administrative gifts and interpersonal savvy. He can think broadly and in detail equally well, and he gracefully directs our conversations, soliciting and heeding comments while keeping us on task. This is no small feat, gentle reader. Despite certain perennial stressors , morale among the literati is quite high—higher than I’ve ever known it to be. (And I’ve been around for 30 years—since 1983.) Andrew is in large part the reason for this: it’s quite remarkable how his can-do attitude has altered the atmosphere, and this in turn has made possible other small blossomings. (“It’s a new day!” Borgman barked at me, cheerfully, over the salad bar one day, and he meant because of Andrew.) Andrew’s influence is working through our whole batch.

I’ve appreciated Andrew’s clear, consistent communication with our students and our department members. This has involved Andrew’s collating and making available information about the major and its relationship to GEO and JAF and the Elijah Project—relationships that have needed clarifying. I think more than ever both students and faculty can grasp the specifics and the nuances of our major. All of this is done for our students’ benefit, of course, and Andrew has consistently looked for authentic ways to improve the English major’s experience at Gordon. His careful communiqués to our majors demonstrate in substance, syntax and tone that we care for them.

As a teacher Andrew has been a pace-setter in his use of technology in his courses. Students mention this to me (as if I didn’t already know it). Several times I’ve attended presentations Andrew has made to students, and he’s superbly competent with Blackboard and PowerPoint. He even blogs, and is touted as one of the two or three blogging profs that students should follow. I’ll say more: he tweets as well, and here, too, he directs students and colleagues to essays on the humanities, the liberal arts, the challenges facing higher education, and on what you can do with a degree in English. I’ve enjoyed reading some of these essays, and enjoyed as well the conversations among colleagues that have ensued as a result. Thus Andrew enlivens our discourse even through blogs and tweets, gentle reader. I know students give him high marks for such things, and well they should, at this stage of the game.

And, what matters more, they give him high marks for his teaching—and specifically for his efforts to find ways to reach more students, to reach them better. I’m humbled, awed, in fact, by how good Andrew is at designing a course and laying it out in a syllabus. What a gift to our students! I’ll note here what you must already know: Andrew is clear about his expectations; his expectations are high; this is appreciated. There’s admirable, useful sequencing in his assignments, and there’s a deliberate attentiveness to learning styles. Andrew is conscientious about the proper use of class time and about returning student work on time. And he attends carefully to his course evaluations, making adjustments consistently to enhance the students’ experience. In these things he is faithful in the small so as to be faithful in the large, and students know this. Students crave to be in a classroom taught by someone who asks much of them, more perhaps than they think they can deliver, and who at the same time communicates by his demeanor, his attentiveness, his organization, his stewardship of their time that he values their minds and expects them to grow.

This is not so common a thing, methinks. In fact, I regard the blending of skills and domains that Andrew represents as quite rare.

What haven’t I mentioned much here?—Andrew’s willingness to assume leadership positions (on difficult sub-committees), his creating of new courses (in response to curricular needs), his broader contributions to his discipline (again, in positions of leadership). I’ve also not much mentioned his Christian faith: I will now, by saying merely that I believe it to be active, alive, real—all the adjectives that seem so unsuited to characterizing what is mysterious but manifest, and trusted. We have already come to rely on him for this real faith. Thank God for Andrew’s leadership in this, too.

We need him here in Wenham; the times were never so good in our precincts, say I. And should he manage to campaign us a new faculty member*, then our joy would be complete.

If anyone can, it’s Andrew.

*He did “campaign us” a new faculty member: Chad Stutz. And then another: Kerilyn Harkaway-Krieger. Next we hope will be Jennifer West.

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