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Winter 2002
Volume 39, No. 2
Issue Home

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www.pomona.edu

PCMOnline Editor
Sarah Dolinar

 

Staying Connected

Professor Edward Copeland may be retired and living in London,
but he hasn't left his students behind.

Edward Copeland retired this year after three decades of teaching English literature, but, no matter how far he goes, he’s found that Pomona College is not easily left behind.

Copeland is currently living in London and working on a number of projects, including an edition of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with footnotes explaining what students—especially American students — usually don’t know.

“One of the things I am thinking about all the time these days is my Pomona students; What questions did they have? Where do the lines of explanation need to be?” Copeland says. “So my Pomona students are with me all the time these days.”

Once he’s done with that project, Copeland plans to work on an edition of a post-Jane Austen novel, Catherine Gore’s Cecil, with former student Andrea Hibbard ’86, who now teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. The idea for the collaboration was born when Copeland ran into Hibbard at a conference. “It is really wonderful to know the Pomona connection goes on and on even after retirement,” he says.

Copeland’s history with Pomona began when he joined the English Department faculty in 1972. While at Pomona, his courses included 18th-Century Literature, Jane Austen, Literature of the American South and Early Women’s Fiction.

“I had always wanted to teach in a small liberal arts institution,” Copeland says. “Pomona was exactly where I wanted to be.”

A year after coming to Pomona, Copeland set down deeper roots in the community when he married Margaret “Meg” Mathies, a professor in the Joint Science Department of Pitzer, Scripps and Claremont McKenna colleges, at a ceremony officiated by then-Pomona President David Alexander. Mathies retired this year with her husband.

Copeland’s courses proved popular with students, who described Copeland in course reviews with glowing terms, including “energetic, charming and insightful” and “engaging, excited and intelligent.”

Shauna Antley ’00, recalls Copeland’s classes as being among the highlights of her time at Pomona.

“He made me feel that, even though the works we studied had been analyzed by scholars before, I still could contribute to the discussion,” Antley says. “He was interested in what students thought and gave me the confidence to take risks.”

When Bao Bui ’98, looks back on his days at Pomona, he remembers Copeland’s class on Jane Austen as “one of the best, period.”

“Professor Copeland made literature absorbing and intellectualism look cool,” says Bui. “His classes were always fun, and my big regret is not taking more classes with him. He will leave behind big shoes for his successor to fill.”

His former students aren’t the only ones who recall his classes as fun. Copeland, too, says he thoroughly enjoyed his time in the classroom. He misses teaching and says leaving it has been something of an adjustment for him, in ways both ordinary and unexpected.

“It is always a shock to see a book you are going to buy and you think ‘How am I going to teach this?’ Then you realize you are never going to teach it,” he says. “‘What’s the use of buying it?’ I think—before screwing my head back on right. That is an adjustment I am going to have to make.”

Copeland also feels nostalgic for the daily life at Pomona College.

“I miss the everydayness of collegial life, the meetings in the hallways, chats with Mrs. Clonts in the office, students dropping by, the sense of being part of the general hum of college life,” Copeland says.

Still, teaching is a tremendous expense of energy, and Copeland, who wants to devote his time to scholarship and research, realizes he can’t do both at once. He illustrates the finiteness of time by relating the story of an encounter with an unexpected sage.

In 1986, Copeland went camping in the desert with a group of Pomona faculty, alumni and trustees to get the “Pomona view” of Halley’s comet. While there, Jonathan Reed, young son of English Professor Arden Reed, made a stark observation.

“He took the opportunity to remind us that he would be the only one alive the next time it came around and we would all be dead,” Copeland says with a wry laugh.

“I wish I had another 30 years for scholarship and research—30 years at Pomona and 30 years here,” Copeland says. “But little Jonathan Reed was right.”

—Deborah Haar Clark is staff writer at Pomona College.