Gustavus Adolphus College is notorious for having timeless and knowledgeable professors who contribute to the liberal arts education that enhances the learning of its students.
This past Wednesday, the English Department hosted a Retirement Celebration Open House for Florence Amamoto and Joyce Sutphen.
It was held in the Campus Center Banquet Rooms from 4-7 pm where faculty, students, administrators, and staff were invited to celebrate with these wonderful professors as they end their teaching careers and prepare for their future endeavors.
Even before coming to Gustavus, these women had taken advantage of the opportunities that life had to offer, and made sure to make their mark on the world.
As an undergraduate student at Stanford University, Florence majored in English where she eventually embarked on an enriching study-abroad program to England.
This was certainly a different experience for her as she was a first-generation college student, and had previously never been on an airplane.
She later received her Masters of Teaching at Harvard University, and later attended The University of Virginia to earn her Masters of Arts and PhD in English.
Her PhD dissertation was focused on American autobiographies.
Even though finding a job in English academia is particularly difficult, Florence ended up at Gustavus after a former faculty member decided that he wanted to go back to Wisconsin, where he grew up.
She knew immediately that she wanted to continue teaching at Gustavus, and accepted the job offer once she reached tenure track.
Her focus lies in educating students about the evolution of American literature such as the changes and similarities over time.
“When I finished my dissertation, I wanted to turn my attention to women writers and chose Willa Cather, who is a wonderful writer with Midwest ties since she grew up in Nebraska and set some of her early novels there,” Amamoto said.
Not only has she been invested in this area of literature, but has also cared about other important topics as well.
Her curiosity has inspired her to explore enriching topics that would appealing to all of her students.
“I was also interested in ethnic literature and for the last 15 years have focused on Japanese American literature produced in the U.S., in Hawaii, and in Canada, which are quite different because of the differences in the experiences of those populations in the 3 locales.”
Aside from teaching young adults at Gustavus, Florence has always considered herself a lifelong learner alongside her students.
She truly believes that a Gustavus education fosters the valuable discussion and writing skills.
She also appreciates how the Gustavus Honors Societies are able to value the significant aspects of academic excellence, service, leadership, and student beliefs.
Being apart of the diverse Gustavus community has given her the chance to further develop her ideas of teaching, values, and vocation.
“Having been in college during the Vietnam War, I had come to see college as a time to expand one’s horizons intellectually but also to think about one’s civic duties, one’s relationships beyond the classroom,” Amamoto said.
As far as her future plans, Florence is currently working on multiple insightful research projects, and is planning to attend the Western Literature Association annual conference, along with the biennial Cather seminars.
She hopes to volunteer on behalf of the Cather Foundation by organize archival material, and among organizations in St. Peter.
She also wants to travel both domestically and internationally if possible.
During her free time, she will be driving to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to participate in the cultural events, and practice her English country dancing on a regular basis.
When asked about what she will miss most about Gustavus, Florence had nothing but positive, uplifting remarks to give.
“I’ve had wonderful colleagues who are friends. And I love our students; they are the best thing about Gustavus. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to teach and get to know such wonderful students, to support their learning, watch their growth, and support the development of their aspirations for their futures. This is what I will most most about Gustavus; I cherish these many friendships and memories.”
Students how have had Florence have expressed their appreciation for the guidance she has given them over the years.
“Florence was my FTS professor for ‘Other Lives, Other Perspectives,’she always encouraged us to do our best. She had high expectations for our papers, but she pushed us to be better, and she made the transition to Gustavus really good for me because I was really nervous about connecting with professors,” sophomore Zach Dietrich said.
Those who currently have Florence also had nothing but affirmative words to say about her.
Her classes have certainly been an enjoyable environment for ambitious students who are seeking to gain the most out of their expensive liberal arts education.
“I’m in her American Women Writers class. The look on her face every single morning when she starts to introduce the writers or works, makes me think, ‘yes, I’m here for it, I love it. These are amazing women who were doing amazing things, and she energizes me to be excited about the things that we’re doing in class. That propels me through the rest of my day,” sophomore Grace Lee said.
The second Professor the English Department celebrated on Wednesday was Joyce Sutphen, who is Minnesota’s Poet Laureate.
Although she had originally attended The University of Minnesota as a pre-med student, this soon changed once something drastic happened in her life.
“In the fall of my first year, my sister (only 18 months younger than me) died, just after Thanksgiving. After that, I lost all of my desire to go into medicine, since there were some definite failings in my sister’s case. I’d also realized, when I’d gone to visit her after open-heart surgery, that I probably didn’t have the temperament for the profession. I fell back (very briefly) on my second “professional” interest, which was in journalism, but handling words that way seemed too uninspired for me,” Sutphen said.
She earned a Masters in English with an emphasis on writing coupled with a PhD in Renaissance Drama.
Her academia career consists of teaching at Northern Michigan University, and the Split Rock Arts Program, as well as in Northern Ireland and London.
She has been granted many Minnesota-based awards for her books, and has had her poetry published by various publishing presses, and journals.
Once she started taking classes in Shakespeare, and Yeats, she realized how much she loved that subject material.
“I did very well as a literature student; in fact I was well on my way to a good fellowship and graduate school—but I didn’t write poetry then (except for poems written specifically to one person) because I felt so overwhelmed by the skills of these poets—mostly men, all dead. It was very typical of the times (lot more to say about that),” Sutphen said.
Due to both personal and political reasons, she dropped out of University in the Spring of 2017.
She travelled countless places around the United States, and wrote insightful poetry throughout her journey.
When she moved back to Minnesota, she finished her undergraduate degree by taking an Intermediate Poetry class.
During this time, she was earning both her Masters and PhD at The University of Minnesota.
She was also apart of a Study-Abroad Program called “Literature in London,” where she immediately fell in love with poetry again, and thought London was the place that revived her poetry.
She believes it is a place that fosters beauty and creativity, holding it close to her heart.
While she was in Graduate School and working on her PhD, a friend who worked at Gustavus notified her about the position.
She originally did not grow up in the small town of St. Peter, and was more familiar with Minneapolis.
Even though she was not looking for a job, she decided to give it a shot and apply anyway.
“It was love at first sight. I enjoyed meeting people in the English Department, and on the tour of campus, the students were so friendly (smiling and saying hello) that I couldn’t wait to work with them in the classroom.”
When asked about what she learned while being at Gustavus, she talks about the wonderful students who she considered as “creative, brilliant colleagues” who were eager to share their ideas; the same can be said about the faculty too.
“When I started teaching at Gustavus, I was most concerned about the content of the course (getting it across, covering a literary work or period); over the years, I came to care far more about the particular individual who was reading and thinking about the work we were reading in the classroom.
Of course along the way, I became a spokesperson for the power of poetry—and that was something that was deep in the ethos of the English Department,” Sutphen said.
Her plans for the next month include seeing new and old poems which Ted Kooser, former U.S. Laureate will edit, and will be published in University of Nebraska Press.
She is going to keep traveling, and is currently working on more Creative Non-fiction pieces.
There are many student lives that Joyce has touched personally, as her presence has tremendous weight on this campus.
She will especially be missed by the students who feel inspired by both her kind and compassionate personality, along with her sentimental, meaningful poetry.
“There are several reasons for not wanting to miss a class, and Joyce is one of them. She is a breath of summer air that me go to a 9am class every morning in the coldest winter days. I had her for Modern Poetry and Writing Poetry, she is a delight. She’s only allowed to retire now because my class is graduating,” Senior Tara Robinson said.