Phyllis R. Nahman and Gretchen S. Watson made extraordinary contributions to GCC, having been dedicated fully to the purpose, nature and mission of the College, and having achieved outstanding distinction on the campus. The GCC Board of Trustees, with the recommendation of President Bob Pura and others in the GCC community, unanimously voted to name the GCC library in their honor at the October 2012 Trustees meeting.
Phyllis began her teaching career as an adjunct faculty member before joining the full-time faculty in the early 1970’s. Her passion for teaching and learning, her nurturing attitude towards students, and her conviction in the power of the written word and how it can change student’s lives are characteristic of Phyllis’ positive and exemplary impact on the GCC community. Phyllis introduced English literature to decades of students, opening up new worlds, introducing challenging ideas and in the process of teaching she helped her students to find their own voice, preparing them for success, both inside and outside the classroom. As an example of her dedication to all students, whether in her classroom or not, Phyllis chose to have her office within the Learning Resource Center in order to be accessible to all students and also served as the unofficial liaison between the English Department and the Learning Center.
Phyllis has made many other contributions to the college including serving on numerous committees, chairing the English Department, creating new curriculum for English and women’s studies and chairing Standard VI, Library and Information Resources for a Self-Study. Libraries, both academic and public, have been a central part of Phyllis’s life. She is currently on the Board of Trustees for the Greenfield Public Library. While at GCC she was instrumental in helping to build the Children’s Literature section of the Library, a collection that has proven to be essential for students studying the subject and used by GCC students, faculty and staff as a gateway to literacy with their own children.
Retiring in 2002, Phyllis remains connected to the College, maintaining relationships with faculty, staff and alumni and attending and supporting a variety of College sponsored events. She is a passionate reader and a champion of literacy, committed to the idea that education can change lives for the better, and that libraries with their open access, play a vital role in that process.
When Gretchen came to GCC in the fall of 1985, her enthusiasm and fervor for teaching was evident from her very first day on campus. A true believer that an informed citizen is an educated citizen, Gretchen embraced this philosophy with a passion that quickly singled her out to students as a “good” teacher and one whose class you needed to take. Gretchen’s classroom, with her rapid fire cadence and expertise on a wide ranging variety of topics, guaranteed a lively and inspiring discourse between her and the students. One of her many strengths was the ability to cultivate the potential in all of her students, regardless of whether they were in College Reading and Writing Strategies or Latin American Literature. Gretchen maintained relationships with her students throughout their studies at GCC, and it was not unusual to find her speaking with former students in the hallway, the cafeteria, or in her office on a current hot topic.
Gretchen was an active and well known member of the GCC community participating on a variety of college committees including college governance and institutional reorganization. One of the pioneers in online learning at GCC, Gretchen was a motivating force and was always available to help her colleagues taking the leap to integrate technology into their teaching. Gretchen absorbed information like a sponge and her many interests led her to being a GCC Library regular. Whether it was the latest bestselling mystery, obscure South American writer or tracing the William Morris wallpaper of her living room, Gretchen’s enthusiasm for research and knowledge was infectious. She was one of the first faculty members to engage the librarians in conversations concerning information literacy which eventually led to the English Department imbedding a variety of information literacy components into their coursework and mission statement. Her travels in Latin America and Europe and teaching experiences in Belarus and Beijing enriched her global awareness and strengthened her commitment to expose her students to the wider world and to explore different viewpoints, socially, culturally and politically.
The community suffered a great loss with the sudden passing of Gretchen S. Watson in October 2006. She is remembered for her passion, her zeal for life, sense of humor, and strong belief in the power of knowledge and the potential of her students.