Four faculty members retire

Professors Holly Hanson, Christopher Pyle, Stan Rachootin and Lynn M. Morgan retire from Mount Holyoke College after extraordinary teaching careers.

By Kevin McCaffrey

Four esteemed Mount Holyoke College faculty members have retired this spring.

Professor of History Holly Hanson, Class of 1926 Professor of Politics Christopher H. Pyle,  David and Lucy Stewart Professor of Biological Sciences Stan Rachootin, and Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology Lynn M. Morgan all marked their final semesters as formidable teachers and scholars who have inspired countless students. Among them, they have amassed an extraordinary 139 years of service to the College.

"This is a remarkable group of colleagues whose talent, intellect, passion and commitment have been truly inspirational over the decades,” said Jon Western, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. “Our students, faculty and staff have benefited greatly from their many contributions and while we are excited to see what comes next for them, we will miss them greatly."

Holly Hanson

After 23 years here, Holly Hanson departs the College to direct the research department at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel.

An accomplished social historian of Africa who has concentrated much work and thought on the history of global inequality, Hanson is currently exploring political accountability in Uganda over several centuries and how humans create and undermine dynamic patterns of exchange. 

She has examined these issues both through her scholarship and with her students through her classes, which included  When People meet Power: Political Accountability in Africa before 1750, African Cities: Development Dreams and Nightmares in the Twentieth Century, and History of Global Inequality. Hanson has also worked to understand farming’s role in prosperous communities through her research on land tenure and agrarian change in Uganda and through her classes. She received Mount Holyoke’s Faculty Award for Teaching in 2013. 

Hanson’s scholarship includes many books and articles, invited lectures, and conference presentations. She is now finishing “To Speak and Be Heard: Seeking Good Government in Uganda, circa 1500 to 2015.” This follows previous books, “A Path of Justice: Building Communities with the Power to Shape the World” and “Landed Obligation: The Practice of Power in Buganda.”

Hanson has received numerous awards and fellowships, participated widely in professional and international service, and led many community-based learning efforts, often involving local African immigrants. And she has been a force on campus, both intellectually and socially. Her African dance party, almost annual, often drew upwards of 100 participants from the campus and beyond.

"I have loved having the opportunity to think with Mount Holyoke students and colleagues, and although I am excited about the challenge of leading the work of research of the Baha'i faith, I am really sad to say goodbye,” Hanson said. “I want to thank everyone at the College for being such a supportive community over the past 23 years."

 Christopher H. Pyle

Christopher Pyle is a teacher, scholar and political activist whose interests range across history, law and politics, with an emphasis on civil liberties. Joining Mount Holyoke in 1976, he has taught courses on constitutional law, civil liberties, American politics, bureaucracy, American political thought, poverty, and constitutional history.

Pyle first received national recognition in 1970 when he disclosed the military’s massive surveillance of civilian politics — and recruited 125 of the Army’s own agents to expose it. His first book, “Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, 1967-1970,” was followed by “The President, Congress, and the Constitution: Power and Legitimacy in American Politics,” “Extradition, Politics, and Human Rights,” “Getting Away with Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes and the Rule of Law,” and “The Constitution Under Siege: Presidential Power Versus the Rule of Law.” 

He has published hundreds of articles and opinion pieces regarding issues including freedom of expression, equal protection, privacy, investigative journalism, terrorism, kidnapping, and detention without trial. His articles on Army spying won the George Polk Award and the Hillman Prize for his investigative journalism in 1971 and 1972 and led to testimony before, and consultantships with, several congressional committees, including the Church Committee.

In 2004 Pyle received the Luther Knight Mcnair Award from the ACLU of Massachusetts. In 2007, he received the College’s Faculty Award for Teaching. Pyle has taught at the United States Army Intelligence Center, Columbia University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, University College Dublin, Complutense of Madrid, and Harvard Law School. 

He has also taught a variety of January Intersession courses, including boat building, Irish politics (in Northern Ireland during the troubles), colonial history at Plimoth Plantation, with the class dressed as 17th-century immigrants in costumes, dialects, and character, and three courses on seamanship, sailing aboard tall ships. 

Pyle has also served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Petra Foundation and the ACLU of Massachusetts. His retirement projects include finishing a book on money in politics, furniture building and continuing as moderator for the local fire district.

Stan Rachootin

At Mount Holyoke since 1981, biologist Stan Rachootin has focused much of his work on the relation of evolution and development, comparative anatomy of invertebrates and vertebrates, and projects in reconstructing 19th- and 20th-century biology. Long fascinated by the complexities of biological form and evolutionary change, Rachootin has taught courses in introductory biology, evolution, Darwin, macroevolution, and invertebrate zoology.

Winner of Mount Holyoke College's Faculty Prize for Teaching in 2004, Rachootin’s projects have included working out a new format for introductory biology, in which the topics and styles of thinking are new for all students in the class, whatever their previous science experience, and which uses campus biodiversity as its principal text.

In addition to pursuing his own research on the history of evolution and the links between evolution and development — his publications include an essay in “The Darwinian Heritage,” published by the Princeton Legacy Library, and an article in Evolution Today — Rachootin has supervised more than 60 honors theses covering myriad subjects, including structures and relationships in cnidarians, segmented worms, mollusks, arthropods, and vertebrates; links between asexual reproduction and segmentation; the evolution of flatfishes; geometrical analysis of shells of closely related species of snails; and the wing of an extinct midge that incorporated the patterning of the surface of its eye.

Rachootin was president of the Mount Holyoke chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, is a fellow of the Linnean Society of London, has served in editorial capacities at American Zoologist (now known as Integrative and Comparative Biology) and American Scientist, and has won numerous awards and honors through his distinguished career.

“There was never a Rachootin lab. Instead, there was what its inhabitants named ‘the thesis closet,’” Rachootin said. “There, specimens, books and stories came together. Some of the stories were the beginnings of theses, and some of the theses became new stories. I look forward to connecting stories, and sending them to my former students, who add new dimensions by transmuting stories into images, ideas and new avenues of research.”

Lynn M. Morgan

Also retiring from the College, Lynn M. Morgan is a medical anthropologist and feminist science studies scholar who focuses on issues including global health, the anthropology of gender and sexualities, and reproductive governance in Latin America. 

Recipient of the College’s Faculty Award for Teaching in 2002, Morgan started at Mount Holyoke in 1987 and has held numerous academic posts in addition to her work at Mount Holyoke. These have included positions at the Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies, University of Copenhagen, Escuela de Salud Pública Universidad de Chile - Dr. Salvador Allende G.,  and the Monteverde Institute.

She has authored two books, “Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos” and “Community Participation in Health: The Politics of Primary Care in Costa Rica,” and edited a third, “Fetal Subjects, Feminist Positions,” as well as written over 30 articles.

For Morgan, reproductive politics are central to every issue in our lives, as she noted in a 2016 interview: “Poverty and welfare policies, health care, education, the high cost of child care, minimum wage and other labor issues — all these affect the health and well-being of children and families.” Her focus on reproductive health policy and governance in Latin America provided her with perspective on these issues in the United States.

Morgan’s awards include the 2011 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science for “Icons of Life,” and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for Humanities, Social Science Research Council, and the School for Advanced Research. 

A founding member of the Five College Program in Culture, Health and Science, as well as the Five College Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Program, Morgan is currently writing about the backlash against reproductive rights movements in Costa Rica, Argentina and Mexico.

“It's been an honor to learn from Mount Holyoke students, who know that a more just society is within our power to achieve,” said Morgan.