Walking Away: A Farewell to Professor Walk

Rainer Turim, ‘18

If you have entered the BHSEC library in the past decade, you would know Professor Walk. If you’ve been kicked out of the library for eating or caught talking during the silent period, you would know Professor Walk. She has been BHSEC’s librarian, a History of the Americas teacher, a Student Union leader, and most importantly, a friend. We’ve all ranted to her about our finals, our essays, our college process, political theory, and everything inbetween. However, she is leaving BHSEC for Champaign, Illinois to get her doctorate in education. In late 2006, Professor Walk was preparing to move from Illinois to student teach in New York City. She explains, “through a crazy chain of fate, my resume wound up in a stack of resumes that Dr. Lerner and Ms. Sawick were looking through to find a librarian. I got an email from someplace I had never heard of called Bard High School Early College. At the time, I wanted to be a college librarian but because I had a young daughter, I needed the schedule of a high school. I didn’t want to be in a high school, because I had an intellectual awakening in college, not in high school. But when I walked in the door, I knew I was home.”

When asked about what she’s looking forward to in Illinois, she says, “My life’s goal was to always be in college. That’s one reason I’m so at home at BHSEC. But Illinois is my ‘other’ home, and it will be nice for my daughter to go to high school literally surrounded by family, as my sister and brother-in-law teach there. Hopefully we’ll even get to graduate at the same time! And although my doctoral program will be in education, I’m studying under professors who specialize in political theory and philosophy, including Hannah Arendt. Basically all my intellectual interests are coming together in Illinois in a way I never imagined would be possible.”

When asked about what she’s going to miss most about BHSEC, she comments, “I don’t miss things. Every so often I make major life shifts. Moving to New York almost ten years ago as a single parent was one of them. So I can’t tell you the things I’ll miss. But I can tell you the things I love about BHSEC. I love that this place lets a librarian teach History of the Americas. I love that just by sitting here, I’ve had conversations for hours about the world, political theory, things worth talking about. If I had worked at a traditional college library, I would have never had the same experience. I love that we name our staplers. I love that we’re a place that still prefers print book. I love that our mascot is a Bardvark. I love that we don’t start school with class, but Writing and Thinking. I love that we are not just an early college, we are a liberal arts early college. I love that I have to kick students out at the end of the day. I love that students feel homeless when I go to lunch one day of the week. I love that the library means so much here. Every year that I’ve been here, someone mentions the library in their graduation speech.”

Professor Walk recalls one of her most profound experiences at BHSEC as helping students organize the Teach-In, which she describes as a “pivotal experience in my life.” Reflecting on her journey at BHSEC, she adds, “I remember my very first History of the America’s class. Walking in, students sitting in front of me. Taking a very deep breath and faking it as if I knew what I was doing.”

In thinking about her colleagues, she says, “Of course, students knew how much I treasured Friday lunch with Peter [Kolbe]. My colleagues were my best friends in New York. My whole world in New York circled around BHSEC. You don’t find that everywhere. There will be other places where I’ll have good colleagues, but I don’t know if I’ll have such good friends. These are my friends. I’ll miss my friends. But, it’s time for me to graduate. It’s time to do the next big thing.”

“It’s a tragedy,” says Ms. Randall, who shares the library with Professor Walk, commenting on her leaving.

Professor Walk has one request for the current students: “I need you guys to take care of Ms. Nolan, the next librarian. We’re very lucky to have her. Not only has she worked at the Teachers College library and St. Mark’s Comics, but, even more important, she’s a graduate of Bard College and my former student teacher. So she knows all the tricks of the trade, and then some. Our expanding graphic novel collection? All her. Ability to dispense wisdom in an understated yet pointed way? Highly advanced.”

Professor Walk won’t forget BHSEC as she continues her studies. “This model of education, Bard High School Early College, is so profoundly unique. This is education worth doing for its own sake. There are other interesting kinds of school, but to have the majority of your faculty love their disciplines so much they earned a doctorate or terminal degree? I fear I’ve been spoiled for working at any other kind of school. There is a profundity to what we do here at a liberal arts early college, and I think it’s rooted in how seriously we take you [students] as intellectuals, as doers and thinkers.”

Many will miss her, but Professor Walk believes she has a bright future ahead. “The same way I knew that I was in the right place the moment I walked into the door for an interview ten years ago, I know that Illinois is my next right place. The University of Illinois is like a little mecca of culture in the middle of the cornfields. I’m looking forward to watch my nieces and nephews grow up. But don’t worry. I am going to stay connected with BHSEC and Bard Early Colleges. Formally or informally, I’m going to stay connected.”

Thank you, Professor Walk for being our librarian, our teacher, and our friend.160

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