Brandon and Hafner named Emeriti faculty, Bracken retires

Tue, 06/01/2010 - 1:15pm
Hafner and Brandon
Two longtime faculty members were granted emeritus status at commencement in May. Dr. Melvin J. Brandon, after 41 years as a member of the philosophy department, and Dr. John H. Hafner, who has served 39 years on the English faculty, retire from Spring Hill College as professors emeriti.

Dr. Melvin J. Brandon, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy

Brandon has been a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy since 1969.  He earned his M.A. in 1966 and Ph.D. in 1972 from Saint Louis University. For four decades, he has served SHC and its students as a passionate teacher and advisor, department chairperson, committee member and faculty leader.

“The years have flown by all too quickly,” Brandon said. “Having the opportunity to interact with students over 41 years is not just a great job. I am truly blessed to be able to combine my career and my calling – my one talent, if you will.”

Dr. George Sims, provost, said at commencement, “With energy, he asks challenging ethical questions about pressing public issues. With discernment, he calls on professionals in business, medicine and law to consider the ethical dimensions of their decisions, policies and procedures. He has been both an advocate and a model of integrated, interdisciplinary inquiry.”

Brandon initiated a lecture series on ethics and leadership, attracting prominent speakers in business ethics, bioethics and community organizing to Spring Hill’s campus. Among the speakers was Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

He participated in four National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminars, served five years on the board of directors of the Alabama Humanities Foundation, and served as president of the Alabama Philosophical Association. He spent a sabbatical as a visiting scholar at Baylor College of Medicine Ethics Center and another shadowing Robert Holmes, vice president of ethics at Alabama Power.

Drawing from these experiences, Brandon developed a concentration in organizational leadership. He said he hopes the College continues the annual ethics and leadership conference, as well as the interdisciplinary courses on deliberative democracy that he was instrumental in organizing.

Brandon stresses that the liberal arts – and philosophy and ethics, in particular – remain relevant in today’s society. “Liberal arts colleges like Spring Hill will always be a minority movement, even countercultural in important ways,” he said, “but this kind of an education will provide the necessary anchor and compass that are so important in the quickly changing world of the 21st century and beyond.”

He added, “I did not realize, but my teaching has always tried to follow the philosophy of retiring justice of the Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens. The mantra is simple, but challenging: ‘First understand, before you agree or disagree.’ In short, keep on thinking and reflecting, because every moral issues needs to be rethought for each generation.”

Dr. John H. Hafner, Professor Emeritus of English

Hafner graduated from Spring Hill College in 1960 and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1969. After teaching at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and at Indiana University, he joined the English faculty at SHC in 1971. Since then, he has served Spring Hill and its students in every way possible.

As a member of the campus community, Hafner has served on all standing committees of the faculty, directed graduate programs, chaired the English department, and chaired the faculty assembly. Hafner’s doctoral dissertation was on “William Faulkner’s Narrators,” and he taught several courses that focused on Faulkner’s fiction, as well as American fiction, Southern fiction, British literature and creative writing.

Although Spring Hill has always been his “home base,” Hafner diversified his teaching and learning though various grants, including three Fulbright appointments. He received senior professorships to the University of Athens, Greece, for one year; the University of Indonesia in Jakarta for two years; and De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines, for one year. Following these appointments, Hafner introduced Asian literature into the College curriculum.

Hafner also studied several summers at other American universities: University of California, Berkeley; University of Connecticut, Storrs; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Columbia University, New York.

While his accomplishments are impressive, “it is as a teacher and friend to students that Dr. Hafner has made his most enduring contribution,” Sims said at commencement. “For 39 years, having Dr. Hafner as a professor – seeing his love of literature and his intellectual playfulness in action – has been one of the hallmarks of a Spring Hill College education.”

Dr. Robert Bracken, Associate Professor of Business

Bracken joined the Spring Hill business faculty in the fall of 2002. He directed the Master of Business Administration program from 2004 until the summer of 2008, when he co-directed the program with Dr. Sergio Castello. Bracken came to Spring Hill with the expectation of teaching a few years before retiring from his academic career.

“I found the College to be everything I expected and much more,” Bracken said. “Spring Hill students, my colleagues, and the administration are friendly, caring and open to various points of view. I leave this beautiful campus with a firm belief that the students, faculty and administration will continue to strive for excellence in all things.”

Bracken added, “I remember the first time someone sneezed in one of my classes; every student responded with ‘bless you.’ I realized then, and still believe, they truly meant it.”