In 1984, English professor Mary Collar and then-English professor Charles Crupi had narrowed down their 150 applicants for a position in the English department to 20 at a massive Modern Language Association conference.
According to Collar, Crupi said, ‘I think we will have gone through this awful hiring process only to end up picking the candidate from down I-94.’”
Collar and Crupi did. Judy Lockyer, with a fresh PhD from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, began teaching English at Albion in 1985. On Friday, faculty past and present, staff, friends and former students honored Lockyer’s upcoming retirement at the end of the semester.
In Stockwell Library’s Wendell Will room, faculty and staff spoke of Lockyer’s profound impact on the college and those she met with her humor, teaching style, courage, selflessness and drive for racial and gender equality.
Equipped with diet cola and tenacity, Lockyer fought for justice
At the reception, retired English professor Sally Jordan recalled an instance where Lockyer’s keen sense of humor shone. During Jordan’s first English department party, some attendees were gossiping about an acquaintance being spotted with a grocery cart full of Pop-Tarts.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, God, I’ve eaten a Pop-Tart. Guess I better guard that guilty secret,”’ said Jordan. “Then Judy took a swig of her Diet Coke, leaned back in her chair and drawled out the one question that really mattered: ‘What flavor?’”
Others spoke of Lockyer’s humor, too. Collar emphasized Lockyer’s proud preference for diet cola. English professor Ian MacInnes shared the tale of a wild car ride with Lockyer at the wheel.
Jordan, MacInnes and the Institutional Advancement staff collected 29 notes written to Lockyer by her former students. Many spoke of her wit in the classroom.
“She is one of the reasons for the English department’s signature attitude of brusque jocularity,” said MacInnes. “You might think that a sense of humor is a luxury in a college professor, but I have to tell you that if you teach young people to write, it’s a necessity.”
Yet, many speakers said Lockyer did not hesitate to stand for justice, no matter the personal cost. Lockyer spoke out against Board Committees and college administration for being unfair to faculty and for taking the college in the wrong direction.
She strove for gender, ethnic and racial awareness and equality on campus, too, they said.
Lockyer was instrumental in creating the Anna Howard Shaw Women’s Center and Albion’s first sexual harassment policy. She advised feminist groups like POWER and served on numerous committees and sub-committees.
In the 1990s, Lockyer proposed to Albion’s Educational Policy Committee that the college’s required curriculum cover gender and ethnicity topics. What emerged was Albion’s gender and ethnicity course categories, a core principle of Albion’s liberal arts graduation requirements.
The year the gender category was implemented, Lockyer won grants to bring in major figures in race and ethnicity to campus.
Through an application submitted by Lockyer, Albion was then chosen as one of 12 institutions to take part in the American Commitments, Diversity and Democracy project. According to Collar, it was through the project that Harvard University noticed Lockyer’s category idea and drew inspiration from it.
With a gender category established on campus, Lockyer went on to help create Albion’s first women’s and gender studies course, complete with a women’s and gender studies faculty position.
Lockyer’s fights for justice also came at a personal, more sympathetic level. MacInnes noted that Lockyer has been a kindred mentor for young women over her three decades of teaching. She helped guide MacInnes, too.
“As a young male faculty member, there were a lot of things I needed to hear,” he said. “There are so many times when Judy has helped me see past my own privilege and my own ignorance, letting me know when and how to stand up and defend colleagues.”
Lockyer inspired others every year
President Mauri Ditzler said he often asks alumni who their favorite faculty were at Albion. From the Class of 1985 to the Class of 2018, Lockyer’s name has continuously popped up.
Ditzler said it is difficult to be favorite professor through the generations. Just a few months ago, he emphasized the special impact a professor can have on a student or two each year to new Albion faculty. Over the course of a career, dozens of students can be profoundly impacted by one professor, he said.
Ditzler suspects that Lockyer had a special impact on three times the number of students a faculty member might expect to have.
Collar, who helped implement gender inclusivity policies and curricula with Lockyer, dubbed her friend “the visionary.” Together, the two were infamous amongst faculty for their rabble-rousing and humor.
“Judy, thank you so much for being my ally in the hot times in this old town,” said Collar. “I don’t know how to be at Albion without you.”
Lockyer concluded the reception, appreciative of the personal connections she made, as well.
“I have loved every minute of being here, teaching here and being friends with so many of you,” she said. “I cherish your friendship.”