Expressing passions in last lectures

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Max Briggs

Professor Doug Thorpe presents during the Ivy Honorary Lecture. Max Briggs | The Falcon

Julia Battishill

By Julia Battishill and Jenn S. Tran

For Seattle Pacific University’s Dr. Ramona Holmes, her Ivy Honorary Last Lecture also functioned as her first lecture. The music professor explained that she normally does not ever formally lecture, because she has always preferred to listen and sing with her students.

Holmes, alongside Dr. Doug Thorpe, gave her last and only lecture on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 1, in Eaton Hall. Between Holmes and Thorpe, the audience experienced a wide variety of topics and styles of teaching at the lecture event.

“Doug and I have very different lecture styles, so I think that this duo approach provided some interesting variety for the audience,” explained Holmes.

For her part, on theme with her preference for listening to music with her students, Holmes played music from around the world for the audience. She instructed attendees in what they should be listening for in each sample piece, and discussed their specificities with the group.

Her emphasis on including her audience did not go unnoticed, nor did her integration of music from many different cultures. Attendee and SPU student Tyler Eveland noted the way Holmes tied together different cultural experiences and their influence on music, all while engaging the audience, as impressive and interesting.

Professor Ramona Holmes creates a song and dance with her instruments. Max Briggs | The Falcon

“Her lecture was full of really great messages about music and experience, and how they can connect within the realm of music education,” said Eveland.

“I thought that her emphasis on bringing in different cultural music and experiences, and sharing them with us and with students was especially great. The audience participation was also a plus!”

In addition, her lecture included teaching an interpretive dance to the audience, a well received and unexpected activity. She also played a slideshow of her own childhood photos from when she first knew she loved music.

Holmes said that she enjoyed the day as much as her audience did, if not more. She started out her career being involved with Ivy Honorary, and was thrilled to finish it the same way almost 25 years later.

“My second year at SPU, 1994, I was also an Ivy ‘Top Prof.’ It was rather nice to sort of bookend my career at SPU with this lecture opportunity from Ivy Honorarium,” explained Holmes.

She also expressed her gratitude about finishing off the last lecture of her career with Thorpe by her side.

“It was a great honor for me to be on the same program with Doug Thorpe, one of my most treasured colleagues,” Holmes said.

Thorpe expressed very similar sentiments in an interview, saying that he is glad to have done the event with Holmes.

Professor Doug Thorpe presents during the Ivy Honorary Lecture. Max Briggs | The Falcon

“Doing the Last Lecture was an honor, and particularly meaningful sharing the time with my friend from the music department Ramona Holmes,” said Thorpe.

In contrast with Holmes, Thorpe has had plenty of practice lecturing. As a longtime professor of English, Thorpe spends much of his time in front of his class explaining and discussing with his students. He chose to use his lecture time discussing various topics that he is passionate about.

He expressed his gratitude for his time at SPU and talked at length about his time here as a professor, noting fellow English professor Dr. Tom Amorose as a significant influence.

The MC of the event, stated that Thorpe is known for his connections with his students and his lasting relationships with them long after they have left his classroom.

One such former student is Eveland. He noted how nostalgic this lecture was for anyone who has been in Thorpe’s classroom before.

“He’s always been warm and welcoming, and there’s something about his voice and laid back stance that brings you in but also keeps you relaxed,” said Eveland.

Thorpe brought music into his lecture, much as Holmes did, but in a way that is likely very familiar to any student who has had Thorpe before. At one point in the lecture, Thorpe and a former student in the audience enthusiastically sang a Bruce Springsteen song together.

According to Eveland, this should come as no surprise to those who know Thorpe and his love for music, as well as his passion for tying it in to his subject.

“If you’ve been a Thorpe student, the chances of you hearing about Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, or The Doors, and their connections to literature are very high,” Eveland said.

According to Eveland, the running theme of Thorpe’s lectures, from the many in his classroom to his last in Eaton’s 112 lecture hall, is his intense passion for literature.

“As he introduces [the songs] in the lecture, we begin to see a broader understanding of Thorpe and what draws him into literature,” Eveland described. “You can tell when he is reading a poem or singing a tune that his veins are just flowing with passion for that stuff.”

“Thorpe’s lecture was personal, anecdotal, while also giving the audience a better understanding of literature, as well as the self.”

Thorpe seemed to appreciate his students, current and alumni, as much as they expressed appreciation for him.

“It was also great to see both current and former students there, along with colleagues,” said Thorpe. “I also found it to be a good opportunity to reflect on many decades of both teaching and writing, a rare chance to attempt to sum up a long and wonderful journey.”