By Ken Hambleton ’72
They came. They stayed.
Doane has always enjoyed faculty among the best. One key reason is the love the faculty had for the school and the love the school returned to them.
For example, Dr. Chris Masters ’64 excelled in teaching math at Doane from 1968 to 2008.
Dr. Robert Muckel joined the science department in 1968 and stayed for almost 45 years.
Dr. Evelyn Haller joined the English Department in 1969 and taught for 49 years at Doane.
“We put down roots,” said Masters, who was born in London during World War II and later lived in Zimbabwe and eventually Massachusetts. “I took the train to Doane in 1960 as a student. I still live in Crete.”
Muckel joined Dr. Katherine Buell in teaching biology curriculum at Doane. “I came to love Doane for the atmosphere and the staff and students and that you were allowed considerable freedom in your course offerings.”
Haller considered becoming a medical doctor. She attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. A class in literature, then more classes in English, changed all that. She first taught at Creighton.
But a move to Doane was the final step.
“I never felt discouraged,” she said. “Doane understood that higher education is important for everyone. They let me decide how to teach.”
While living in Africa, “with a dog and a pet baboon, what more could a boy want?” Masters said he thrived.
When polio killed his father, sister and an unborn child and paralyzed his mother and one of his brothers, Masters and his family moved to Massachusetts.
After graduating from Doane, he went to Florida for graduate study and college teaching. “Then, in 1968, I learned that my predecessor in the Doane Math Department had joined the FBI,” he said. He took the opening. His first office was a windowless storage closet in Goodall Science building and later moved to Butler Gymnasium where he battled distractions from gym activities.
After a short time teaching at Doane, Masters faced a devastating loss of a friend and colleague. Dr. Mildred Gross suffered a brain aneurism and Masters was the math department until Jim Johnson was hired. The department grew under Masters’ leadership.
As technology changed, so did math. “We were limited to slide rules and noisy desktop mechanical calculators that always seemed to jam up. Now our students have always been attracted to, and dependent on, technology. Perhaps, too much.”
In 1999 the math department moved to the new Lied Science and Mathematics building. New initiatives, included triMATHlon and student research and student trips to the United Kingdom. Masters helped build the Termesphere, created by Dick Termes, which is a rotating sphere that contains images of famous mathematicians and tells a story.
Muckel graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan in biology and education. While teaching biology and chemistry at Centennial High School in Utica, Muckel picked up his master's at Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia State University) in Emporia, Kan.
“I wanted to return to Nebraska and finish my PhD. Daryl Williams (Academic Dean at Doane) hired me,” Muckel said. “I never did beat him at ping pong.”
Muckel and Katherine Buell built a tight friendship. “She tolerated my humor. She used to put on piano recitals and tea for me and my wife Jean in her apartment,” he said.
“I love learning and sharing information with others. And I now see many of my students for health care,” he said.
Muckel and Everett Gross planted many of the trees at Doane during his time on campus.
The current science faculty and recent professors, such as Rob Wickel, remain close in Muckel’s life.
Muckel currently fills his time as a wildlife-nature photographer and will have a show in August at the Noyes Art Gallery. The Robert D. Muckel Tri Beta Award is presented as a scholarship annually to an outstanding biology student.
One of the few women on the faculty when she started, Haller eventually became the chair of the Fine Arts/Humanities at Doane.
“I struck gold when I decided to teach at Doane,” said Haller, a Chicago native. “There were tough times, too.”
Haller was also raising two boys during her early years at Doane.
Over the years, she has published papers on Shakespeare, Willa Cather, Ezra Pound, Louise Pound, classical mythology and her favorite, author Virginia Woolf.
“My dedication was always to the profession, not the institution,” she said. “To pursue education with like-minded colleagues and enjoying each other’s company was the objective.”
Haller said she arrived in the classroom each day (originally at old Gaylord Hall) with an idea of instruction and sharing. “The big challenge, related to students, was those who wanted to be there for a grade and so forth, and those who wanted an education. I became adept at dealing with the differences. Most students were wonderful. Doane gave me an opportunity and I tried to give that opportunity to my students.”
Haller continues her research and education. She recently participated in world-wide Zoom meetings to discuss Woolf. She has the opportunity to publish on Cather for the prestigious Newberry Library in Chicago.