Secret Lives of Faculty, or Professorial Passions

What Allegheny Teachers Are Doing When They’re Not in Front of the Classroom

By Kathy Roos

There’s no disputing that the faculty of Allegheny College are an exceptional group. Their books break new scholarly ground, their articles in professional journals reveal new directions for research, their creative endeavors explore the outside world and the inner workings of our minds and spirits.

Their work as teachers and as mentors is every bit as remarkable-the stuff of which campus legends are made. But what do these paragons of academic virtue do when they’re not at the lectern or their desks? We talked to seven Allegheny professors to find out about their hobbies, pursuits, and passions-and discovered that the College’s faculty isn’t just a collection of interesting teachers. It’s a collection of interesting people as well.

Sue Buck
Associate Professor of Art

It started as so many grand passions start: one look at that face and Sue Buck was a goner. The fact that the face was framed by diaphanous ruffles of gills and topped a body that Buck describes as “looking like a paisley necktie” only added to the charm. “I knew I had to have one,” she says with the fervor of true love.

Anthony Lo Bello
Professor of Mathematics

Tony Lo Bello can’t remember not loving books. Even as a small child, he knew what books he wanted to own, and as he grew in years, so did the list of books that he wanted for his library. In high school he purchased a copy of Prescott’s Life of Philip II for $20-an extremely sound investment, though he didn’t know it at the time. It was only later that he discovered the value of the signed first edition that he owned.

Rachel O’Brien
Assistant Professor of Geology

Standing on the edge of a configuration of dancers that constantly expands and contracts, like some kind of colorful multicellular organism with forty rapidly moving feet, Rachel O’Brien is intent on the task at hand-calling out the steps that keep these contra dancers moving in unison.

Jeff Cross ’73
Professor of Psychology

Jeff Cross doesn’t refer to decoys-he refers to birds-and that simple detail is telling. As he talks about his collection, there’s no doubt that Cross is passionate about the decoys themselves-their aesthetic value as folk art and as sculpture-but he’s just as passionate about what the decoys represent: a window on another time and another culture and a connection to the wild that is becoming increasingly tenuous for most of us.

Jennifer Hellwarth
Assistant Professor of English

For most of the 1980s, Jennifer Hellwarth was a rock musician, playing guitar and bass and singing in clubs in Los Angeles, part of the movement in music that became known as the Psychedelic Underground. Today she’s teaching courses on Chaucer and the practice of everyday life in medieval and early modern Europe. What a long strange trip it’s been.

Tom Nonnenmacher ’90
Assistant Professor of Economics

Tom Nonnenmacher admits that part of fencing’s attraction for him, as an eighth-grader in New Jersey, was “the romantic notions of what it meant to be a fencer.” It wasn’t difficult to pursue an interest in the sport: New Jersey has one of the largest number of fencing programs in the nation, and Nonnenmacher’s high school even had a varsity fencing team, on which he eventually played.

Courtenay Dodge
Professor of Modern Languages

When Courtenay Dodge’s daughter, Hannah, began taking riding lessons ten years ago, Dodge felt all those emotions that parents feel on such occasions: pride, excitement at seeing a child try something new, jealousy.

This article was featured in the Spring 2003 Issue of Allegheny College Magazine.