Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

Trustees Honor Four Retiring Faculty Members

Story posted May 16, 2011

Four Bowdoin faculty members were elected to emeritus status during the May 12-14, 2011, meeting of the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees. Helen Cafferty was elected William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of German and the Humanities Emerita; John Turner was elected Professor of Romance Languages Emeritus; David Vail was elected Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics Emeritus; and June A. Vail was elected Professor of Dance Emerita.


Helen Cafferty
Helen Cafferty has been in the vanguard of pedagogy since she first arrived on the Bowdoin campus nearly 40 years ago. She was the first woman in the history of the College to rise through all levels of teaching, beginning as an instructor in 1972, advancing to assistant, associate and full professor. She assumed a chaired professorship, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of German and the Humanities, in 1990.

Cafferty earned her undergraduate degree at Bowling Green State University, her master's at Syracuse, and her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.

She has written widely on political drama and theater, East German literature and feminist approaches to the German literary tradition, and was longtime editor of the prestigious journal Women in German. Cafferty has shared her love of literature and culture throughout the state of Maine as a longtime member of the governing board of the Maine Humanities Council.

Cafferty has made many innovative contributions to Bowdoin's academic life. As assistant dean of faculty from 1987 to 1990 she made great strides in diversifying the Bowdoin faculty and played a leading role in initiating Women's Studies at the College.

As a teacher, Cafferty has mentored many honors research projects and greatly increased the number of non-German speaking students taking courses in German literature and culture.

Among her awards and fellowships, Cafferty has received a Fulbright grant and several grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


John Turner
John Turner is a scholar of Renaissance Spanish literature and contemporary Latin American literature, and an authority on the works of Argentine author Julio Cortazar. He has published numerous papers and articles and is author of the book The Myth of Icarus in Spanish Renaissance Poetry.

Turner earned an M.A. at St. Andrews University, an A.M. degree at Indiana University and a doctorate at Harvard. He joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1971.

A superb teacher, Turner has mentored scores of Bowdoin students in his 40 years of teaching, many of whom still count him a personal friend. He was instrumental in establishing the Latin American Studies Program at Bowdoin in 1999, and helped to recruit many of Bowdoin's Latin American scholars.

Turner has made a lasting contribution to his profession in his many years of service with the College Board, serving as chief faculty consultant for Advanced Placement Examinations in Spanish. He chaired the curriculum committee of the Institute for the International Education of Students and is a longtime board member of the International Institute in Spain.

He has had many turns as chair of the Department of Romance Languages and is beloved of colleagues across campus. Turner also has given generously of himself on many College committees, including the Committee on Teaching, Student Affairs Committee, Sexual Bias Committee. He has chaired the committees on Diversity, Off-Campus Study, and Latin American Studies, and served as a member of the Judicial Board.


David Vail
David Vail has been a leading expert on the agricultural and forestry economies of rural Maine and a vocal proponent of progressive policies that support communities while preserving environments.

He earned an undergraduate degree in international relations at Princeton and Ph.D. in economics at Yale. He joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1970.

Vail began his career as an Africa specialist, then focused his research on Maine, understanding the pressures on Maine's rural economies long before sustainability became a household word.

He helped found the Maine Center for Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think-tank that has been a leading force in public policy development throughout the state, emphasizing livable wages, fair taxation, affordable health care, and sustainable development. He has often been tapped by Maine government to help shape public policy.

He has been a visiting scholar in Sweden. He has long studied environmental tourism policies there, which he has leveraged to formulate policies for sustainable nature-based tourism in Maine.

He has brought his thoughtful insights and commentary to a wide public as a contributor to all of Maine's major daily newspapers, has been the subject of several National Public Radio features, and is often consulted as an environmental expert in national media.

Vail is an electrifying teacher who has inspired many students to work on public policy issues in Maine. In addition to stints chairing the Economics Department, he was also central to the development of Bowdoin's environmental studies major, and was an invaluable member of the President's Climate Commitment Advisory Committee.


June Vail
June Vail single-handedly established the dance program at Bowdoin when she arrived on campus in 1971. Through an integrated program of dance techniques, repertory and performance, history and criticism, and a keen appreciation of the cultural contexts in which dance is performed, Vail strengthened liberal arts education immeasurably for generations of Bowdoin students.

Vail earned her undergraduate degree at Connecticut College, studied ballet and modern dance in Paris and New Haven, Connecticut, and earned a master's degree in dance and culture at Wesleyan University

Vail established herself as a voice for dance in Maine as a longtime dance critic for the Maine Times and Portland Phoenix. She has been on he board of the Dance Critics Association and Society of Dance History Scholars, among other professional organizations.

Vail has presented at conferences around the world and is considered a leading authority on dance in Sweden, where she has been a visiting lecturer. Her book Cultural Choreographies — written in Swedish — is considered a definitive text on dance theory and criticism.

Vail was chair of the Department of Theater and Dance from 1994 to 2002. She has served on many Bowdoin committees and was co-chair of the Committee on the Oversight of the Status of Women

In 2010, Vail was given the Alumni Award for Faculty and Staff in recognition of her generous contributions to the campus community.

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