By Nancy NguyenUniversity of Houston-Clear Lake faculty, staff and students will be saying farewell to one of their charter professors, Gretchen Mieszkowski who retires this May.
Mieszkowski, professor of literature and women’s studies, will be retiring from UHCL after 35 years.
Dean of Human Sciences and Humanities Bruce Palmer reflected on Mieszkowski and the first year UHCL opened.
“She has been here 35 years and was one of the three senior people hired in HSH that first year,” Palmer said. “She led the program and has also been one of the most dedicated teachers and faculty members the school has ever had.”
The Bayou Building was under construction and the second atrium was almost complete when she first started her career at UHCL.
One thing that Mieszkowski will miss is sharing her knowledge of Literature and Women’s Studies with her students.
Mieszkowski is passionate about modern and contemporary writers such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton and women writers of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
As the founder of the Women’s Studies Program at UHCL, Mieszkowski has many published articles including a monograph, The Reputation of Criseyde: 1155-1500 that focuses on medieval literature and gender issues.
“I love to talk about the marvelous material I get to teach,” Mieszkowski said. “It’s a great pleasure to talk about material as wonderful as this with students who find it interesting.”
The passion that Mieszkowski has brought to the university has helped shape the way the Women’s Studies Program of UHCL has grown over the years.
“HSH would not be what it is today without her,” Palmer said. “I would say she has had as much impact on HSH as any faculty member or administrator has since the beginning of the UHCL.”
Mieszkowski has fond memories of UHCL.
“My fondest memory takes some explaining,” Mieszkowski said. “Our first dean in HSH, Calvin Cannon, was splendidly into promoting the arts in Houston and, along with Chancellor Alfred Neumann, loved contemporary music. The second atrium had just been built.
“The second half of the Bayou Building wasn’t yet in operation. Chairs were placed around the edges of the atrium and four wooden tower-like structures were built in the four corners of the atrium. On those structures were positioned two excellent singers, one man and one woman, a trumpet player, and one other instrument player. With the lights extinguished and the stars shining through the top of the atrium, they premiered ‘Sirus,’ a piece by Karlheinz Stockhausen, a famous contemporary German composer. I will never forget the magic of that trumpet in the night as this new university came into being.”
“Perhaps the best I can do to describe [Miesckowski] is to describe her as an intelligent, gracious person who has given a great deal to her students, HSH and UHCL,” Palmer said.
Mieszkowski is the only UHCL Piper Award Nominee to win at state.
Mieszkowski leaves behind a note of advice to all students about the importance of education.
“Never forget that what the university can give you is an education,” Mieszkowski said. “Not simply training for a position, but an education: exposure to the thought and experience of many cultures; a taste of many different ways of thinking; the ability to think critically and express your thoughts.”