Two CSM Professors Share 82 Years at College

“So many things have changed during my years at the college

Bill Klink, Bill Montgomery Recall Years as Student, Faculty Members

The College of Southern Maryland celebrated the contributions of 56 employees during the college's Annual Service Recognition dinner Feb. 3. Among the employees who have provided 635 years of collective service to the college were Professors William Klink and William Montgomery, who together have been associated with the college as either students and or faculty for 82 years.

In a time when employees are moving from one business, institution or position to another every three to five years, having seasoned and dedicated employees, who have grown with and propelled the success of an organization, provides a foundation for future development and can often make or break an institution.

Bill Montgomery: Inspired by His Students' Determination

CSM Professor Bill Montgomery began his association with the college in 1961 as a student of Charles County Community College. “Classes were held in the evening in the old La Plata High School, which is now the county government building. I came on board as faculty in 1971 when my position at Freedmen's Hospital School of Nursing ended,” said Montgomery, who is professor and chair of CSM's biological and physical sciences department. “So many things have changed during my years at the college. As a student, the college was so small that one time the dean's secretary called all the students and faculty to let them know classes were cancelled that evening due to snow. Years later, as a member of the faculty, the year book contained not only the graduates but all full-time faculty and staff,” said Montgomery.

While the college has grown tremendously since then, Montgomery notes that when it comes to teaching biology some things never change. “Every semester you are faced with new faces and new advances in biology to teach, but the students often come in with the same general misconceptions about science. One of the most prominent is the idea that science is anti-religion, but that is an attribute that other people have placed on science and scientists. Science is a dedicated method of looking at the world. It is not the only method; it has its limitations, for there are things science cannot know,” said Montgomery. “I like biology because it is all around us. My students experience events every day and we get to explain how and why these events occur,” Montgomery continued.

For Montgomery, interacting with and getting to know his students are the benefits of staying with the college for over 35 years. “Most of my students are studying nursing; they are often pursuing second or third careers. They may be mothers who stayed home to raise their kids and are only now getting to focus on their lives. Many are under tremendous pressure–juggling jobs, family and work obligations. They come into the program and don't know if they can compete academically with people who are younger and they think smarter than themselves; but they learn they can not only compete but often outperform other students. The motivation and determination these students display is very inspiring to me,” said Montgomery.

Bill Klink: Education From a Surfer's Perspective

“I came to CSM in 1971 as a professor and ‘surprise' department chair for the languages and literature department,” laughed Bill Klink who teaches popular culture and language and literature classes at the college. “At the time there was only one gate (the current north entrance) and there were only a couple of buildings; so when you came onto campus late at night, it felt like you had just turned accidentally onto an air strip. It was ‘Back to the Future'- like and very surreal. Our student population as a whole was older, and we had a summer school in Spain where the students lived with the professors in a shared house. It was always fun to see students adjusting to the idea that professors are not foreign entities but people with the same types of interests, hobbies and living habits as their students. I think the interaction of the students and professors initialized a lot of great conversations and ideas,” said Klink.

“I like teaching,” he said. “The best part of being a professor is seeing the diversity of student interests and ideas, and to see students who haven't shown an interest in education before rise up to their potential and become academic stars. They are stunned, literally stunned, to see what they can do. If there is one thing I learned in grad school it is that books and people aren't always what they seem to be – you should never judge by appearances; you never know what is inside,” said Klink.

With 52 journal articles, 69 presentations and five books, including “Sentence Writing” and “S. N. Behrman: The Major Plays,” under his belt, people might assume that Professor Klink eats, drinks and dreams of nothing but the written word. “Honestly, I am stunned by how many American literature questions I miss on Jeopardy,” Klink laughed. “Over the years I have found, and I think this is true of most of my students, that I perform different activities at different levels. According to my students, I am an intense lecturer and teacher, but I don't easily remember anecdotes about which writer did what to whom, or who wrote the opening to said book. I don't think like other people and I certainly don't study the way they do. I think when someone is interested in a topic should investigate what they find interesting about it. Lately, I have been interested in math – a subject I used to barely tolerate. But now I find myself on vacation reading books on math and quantum physics while waiting to surf,” said Klink.

A surfing professor? “Why not?” said Klink, who made a concerted effort to surf following Sept. 11 and has proudly surfed nearly every beach memorialized in Beach Boys lyrics. “I love surfing, but to be honest, I am not good at it. I'm too tall. My center of gravity is too high,” said Klink, who admits, “I have never had that religious surfing experience you hear about so often. There is no one-ness with me and the ocean; it is a battle and an inevitable failure every time I step on the board.”

Despite the frustration and punishment, Klink recently bought a new board to aid him in his attempt, not only to surf all of the Beach Boy beaches but to surf them twice. “I believe in moving forward and seeing where life and your studies take you, even if it is crashing onto a beach,” said Klink.

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