Library Named for Long-Time English Professors

April 26, 2013

In their years of teaching English at GCC, Phyllis Nahman and Gretchen Watson touched the lives of generations of GCC students, passing along their passion for the written word. Now, former colleagues at the College have honored their work by naming the College Library the Nahman-Watson Library. 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 honor of Phyllis and Gretchen at the October 2012 Trustees meeting. The Dedication of the Nahman-Watson Library on Friday, April 26 at 4 p.m. will include brief remarks, a reception, and refreshments, and is open to the public.  Phyllis taught at GCC as Professor of English and Women’s Studies from 1971 until her retirement in 2002. Gretchen was Professor of English from 1985 until her sudden passing in 2006.

 Phyllis offered courses in literature and writing to students for decades, helping her students discover new worlds and challenging ideas. She also encouraged them to develop their own speaking and writing voices, preparing them for success both inside and beyond the classroom. Contributions Phyllis made to the College included creating new curriculum with her colleagues for English and Women’s Studies courses, chairing the English Department, and serving on many committees. Libraries, both academic and public, have been a central part of Phyllis’s life. Always an avid reader, she made liberal use of the Turners Falls Public Library while growing up, spent countless hours in the UMass Library as a student, served on the Board of Trustees of the Greenfield Public Library, and devised assignments for her GCC students that required their exploration and use of the library.

Gretchen was known for her intellectual curiosity, passion for learning, and a sense that everyone benefits when we are all responsible and respectful members of the world community. Ever mindful of the need to work for social justice, Gretchen believed that everyone must become well informed and then act to improve the world. Travels in Latin America and Europe and teaching experiences in Belarus and Beijing enriched her global awareness and strengthened her commitment to our local community. With characteristic zest, good humor, and belief in the power of knowledge and the potential of her students, Gretchen developed and taught a range of courses including College Reading Strategies, Latin American Literature, Film and Literature, and Media and Popular Culture. One of the pioneers in on-line learning at GCC, Gretchen motivated and helped other faculty to integrate technology into their teaching. She worked closely with the GCC library, especially in teaching her students how to conduct research.

Both Phyllis and Gretchen focused on developmental education in the English Department with the goal of helping students strengthen their foundation in the reading and writing skills needed to succeed at GCC.  The Nahman-Watson Library continues the legacy of Phyllis’s and Gretchen’s work, offering access to the richness and pleasure of exploring ideas for personal and academic growth.

To learn more about the naming of the Nahman-Watson Library, visit

By Mary McClitock, ’82

Rembering Phyllis and Gretchen:

Bob Pura, President
“Teaching and learning was not just a way to make a living for Phyllis Nahman and Gretchen Watson; it was the way in which they lived their lives. Naming GCC’s Library in honor of Phyllis and Gretchen brings great joy to the College and invokes the spirit of their teaching and all they contributed to GCC and our community.”

 Joanne McNeil Hayes, Professor of English and Gender & Women’s Studies

“Voice was important to both Phyllis and Gretchen. They saw reading and writing as a way to empower students to develop their own voice and employ voice as a tool for critical thinking. Phyllis and Gretchen’s teaching reflected their awareness of the beauty and excitement of multiculturalism and their desire to open minds to the diversity of world cultures. Students weren’t the only ones who learned from Phyllis and Gretchen. I, and other faculty, always learned something new and exciting in their presence.”

Mary Ellen Kelly, English Instructor and Co-Coordinator of Peer Tutoring Program

“In all the courses Gretchen and Phyllis taught, they inspired students to love reading, such as poetry, fiction, drama, and the latest newspaper editorial. They were committed to social justice, believing that every person can learn and grow. Their teaching reflected a strong belief in the power of the written word and the potential of anyone who walked into their classrooms. Phyllis and Gretchen cared for their students as individuals as well as citizens of the broader community.”

Deb Chown (Director of the Library), Judi Greene-Corvee (Dean of Learning Resources), and David Ram (former Chief Academic & Student Affairs Officer)

“Who better to honor with the naming of the Library than two educators who dedicated themselves to helping thousands of students and countless colleagues improve their knowledge, skills, and confidence in literacy, self-expression, and civic engagement.”

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