News and Events

Summer Excursions

CLAS professors escape to life outside the classroom

This article was originally published in the June - July 2005 issue of CLASnotes.

It has been said that the best thing about being a teacher is June, July and August, but for many CLAS professors the pressure to publish new research or obtain additional grants often keeps them confined to their laboratories and offices during the summer, ignoring the allure of the Florida sunshine. The following faculty members have found ways to schedule in a bit of fun each year—nourishing hobbies and activities that often take a backseat to the rigorous demands of scholarship. Come along with them as they cruise through the Mediterranean, drive cross-country on a motorbike, train for triathlons, perform in European concert halls and travel to the not so Wild West, and maybe, just maybe, you will find yourself penciling in a sojourn of your own.

Traveling in Harmony

Gene DunnamGene Dunnam, a member of the Gainesville Civic Chorus, traveled to Europe to perform in Prague.In his free time, in a new spare room he has built in his house, Physics Professor Gene Dunnam is building a pipe organ. His wife requested the additional room since his previous pipe organ occupied most of their living room. And while this harmonious hobby is time consuming, it is only part of Dunnam’s musical ventures. A charter member of the Gainesville Civic Chorus, he has traveled the past two summers to Europe to perform with a small group of members under the direction of chorale conductor Will Kesling, a UF professor music. In June, they performed Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in the Smetana Hall in downtown Prague along with the Czech Philharmonic and three other choral groups.

The chorus started in 1976, under the direction of UF Professor of Music Elwood Keister, as the US Bicentennial Choir, playing a major role in the community’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Around 80 members perform throughout the year in events such as the annual Messiah Sing-A-Long and fall and spring concerts. When CLAS holds its annual spring Baccalaureate ceremony, this group always performs. Members must audition, and the group practices several hours each week when preparing for a performance.

Dunnam’s musical interest dates back to his childhood. “My grandfather, mother, and my aunts and uncles all loved to sing,” he says. “I remember Mama teaching me all the verses to America when I was around six years old. I’ve sung in school and church choirs ever since.” Dunnam’s wife and children also sing, and his youngest son is a member of a band. In addition to the organ, the baritone singer also plays the recorder, bassoon and piano.

Dunnam has even engineered a way to bring music into his physics classroom. This fall, he will be teaching a course that he created more than 20 years ago. The Physical Basis of Music, PHY 2464, is a basic science class that explores such concepts as how sound waves work and why we hear certain sounds differently. Even though he has found a way to combine his two interests, Dunnam admits that music is actually an escape from his research laboratory. “Performing well requires concentration and, at least temporarily, switching off other cares and concerns. I am rewarded by being part of a recreation of a great work of art.”

Lecturing at Sea

Classics Professor Karelisa Hartigan and English Professor Kevin McCarthyMarried couple Karelisa Hartigan and Kevin McCarthy enjoy lecturing aboard luxury ocean liners whenever they can catch a break from their academic careers.Between semesters and during class breaks, many UF professors enjoy a rest from the classroom. But Classics Professor Karelisa Hartigan and English Professor Kevin McCarthy cannot seem to stop lecturing, though they do get away from it all—on luxurious ocean liners. When their UF teaching and research schedules allow, the married couple can be found aboard various cruise ships around the globe, serving as highly sought after destination lecturers.

Wed in 1992, after having met while teaching courses during back-to-back class periods at Carleton Auditorium, the couple has spent nearly every summer, spring break and winter break since 1996 educating cruise ship passengers on special topics, such as lighthouses or pirates, or on the history and culture of ports of call. They have worked aboard 21 cruises so far, visiting more than 30 countries, for cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises.

“First we look at our schedules and then we get to choose an itinerary,” Hartigan says. “We have done the Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean, the United Kingdom through the Mediterranean, Bermuda and the Black Sea. In May, we boarded in Dover, England and went to Ireland and then through ports in Portugal, Gibraltar, Barcelona, the French Riviera, Livorno, Sorrento, Corsica and Lisbon.”

Treated as both passengers and staff, Hartigan and McCarthy have the same dining and cabin accommodations as passengers, but follow the crew’s code of conduct, which prevents them from striking it rich in the onboard casino or living it up in the nightclub. They must represent the ship at all times, wear a cruise line nametag and be accessible to the passengers. On sea days, they present lectures that are recorded and replayed throughout the cruise so passengers unable to attend can enjoy them from the privacy and comfort of their cabins.

“We also do what is called ‘sail-ins’,” McCarthy says. “When we are coming into a port like Lisbon, for example, we will get on the bridge with the captain and have as many as 2,000 to 3,000 people on the upper decks while one of us will explain over the loudspeaker system what we are looking at as we are coming into port.”

In between lectures, the couple mingles with the guests or accompanies groups on port excursions. They usually wear University of Florida shirts and introduce themselves as UF professors. They almost always meet at least one UF alumnus on a cruise. “Go Gators! is almost an international code or password, it seems like,” Hartigan laughs. They plan to continue working the cruise lecture circuit for the “foreseeable future” and each has talent agents who call almost weekly with a new offer, more than the couple could ever accept. Says Hartigan, “It is a nice reward, at the end of a long career, to be able to do this.”

Scoring History

CLAS Associate Dean Angel Kwolek-FollandAngel Kwolek-Folland spent two weeks in June scoring thousands of AP US history essay exams along with hundreds of other history teachers from around the country.Every July, thousands of high school students across the country eagerly await the results of their Advanced Placement (AP) exams to find out if they will receive any college credit for the AP courses they took in school. And every June, professors and teachers from around the US gather to grade the essay and problem-solving portions of these exams. Professors like CLAS Associate Dean Angel Kwolek-Folland, who most summers since 1988 has spent two weeks scoring US history essays—all day, every day. “It’s a great experience but quite grueling,” says Kwolek-Folland. “We are reading essays seven days a week from 8 am until 4:30 pm. I have higher stacks of papers on my table than I ever do at UF.”

This year, Kwolek-Folland was one of 927 readers who gathered at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas to score almost 875,000 US history exam essays. As a veteran reader, Kwolek-Folland has moved up the ranks, holding titles of table leader and exam leader, with responsibilities that include arriving early to organize the process and helping set standards for scoring.

The AP program was established in 1955 and gives high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses followed by an exam at the end of the course. Based on the score, colleges can choose to award students certain amounts of college credit. More than 30 courses in 19 subject areas are offered at high schools around the country.

“I have read some stunning essays each year, and they amaze me because students have a limited amount of time to write their responses. Some are definitely beyond even the college level in their answers,” says Kwolek-Folland. “However, sometimes it’s hard when an essay question addresses my area of research, US women’s history. I find myself wanting to give the essay a tougher critique, but that’s why we set up standards at the beginning about what each of the five essays should include, and we have to stick to it.”

The AP program pays for the professors’ travel to San Antonio and puts them up in dorms. They eat all their meals in the cafeteria and receive a modest stipend, and the program often arranges activities and tours after the reading ends each evening. “What I enjoy most are the people,” says Kwolek-Folland. “They keep me coming back each year. We have discussions about not only history, but issues facing today’s high school students, so I’m getting a heads-up on what to expect when these kids start college.”

Kwolek-Folland is not the only UF faculty member to spend part of her summer scoring exams. Associate Professor of Spanish Shifra Armon has assisted with AP Spanish exams during the past 10 years and actually met her husband through the experience. “He taught Spanish at California Polytechnic State University and sat right next to me for seven days of non-stop scoring,” explains Armon. “I recall that one of the questions our team was assessing that year was an essay analyzing a love poem by Pablo Neruda.” The couple’s wedding program included the AP icon of an acorn to recognize the role the organization had in bringing them together.

The 10,000-mile Fundraiser

Many Americans dream of driving cross-country at least once in their lives. For sign language instructor Michael Tuccelli, it is an annual tradition.

On July 1, Tuccelli sets out on his burgundy Honda Silver Wing motorcycle for a 19-day, 10,000-mile pilgrimage from St. Augustine, Florida to Hyder, Alaska and back to raise money for deaf infants and senior citizens, as well as Florida’s disabled. He and a small group of fellow bikers hope to raise $5,000 for charity as part of the fourth annual Alaska Bike Run. The event was created by Tuccelli in 2002 and has raised $10,000 so far for the UF Cochlear Implant Team, Child Find of America, Ephphatha Deaf Ministries, the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology and for the Gresham, Oregon retirement home for the deaf, Chestnut Lane.

“I would like this to eventually bring in $100,000 or more annually,” Tuccelli says. “Bikers who join the charity run collect pledges per mile, beginning at one-tenth of a cent per mile. I also collect sponsors. I know this will start slow but with more than 130,000 hits on my Web site and with other bikers knowing that this will take place yearly beginning the last weekend of May or first weekend of June, this will grow.”

Tuccelli, who has been deaf since birth, will cross 17 states and two Canadian provinces this summer, with fellow bikers joining him along the way as he travels through the Southeastern US, across Texas, and up through New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and the west coast through California, Oregon and Washington. Tuccelli says he will drive 400 to 600 miles a day, avoiding major cities when possible and opting for more scenic routes, including a trip through Yellowstone National Park. Last year, the charity run started in Key West and traveled up the east coast to Maine and then across Canada to the Arctic Circle and then down to Mexico.

A biker since age 14, Tuccelli shares the hobby with his 92-year-old father and 18-year-old daughter. He plans to continue the Alaska Bike Run well into his twilight years. “Maybe this is no big deal right now, but when I am fortunate enough to do this in my 80s and 90s this may gain more attention and support,” he says. “My father’s attitude is ‘If you think you can’t do something, just do it!’ and I believe if I set yearly goals and enjoy doing it, that will give me incentive and motivation to keep healthy and active so I can actually teach my current students’ grandchildren!”
For more information on the Alaska Bike Run or to sign up for next year’s event, visit

Iron Woman

Mary WattMary Watt competed in the Disney Half Ironman triathlon in May, where she completed her fastest bike ride ever, cycling 57 miles in three hours and seven minutes.On a blistering hot summer day, many Gainesvillians would not choose to battle Florida’s heat and humidity by running 15 miles or taking a 30-mile bike ride, but for Assistant Professor of Italian Mary Watt, training for a triathlon is a considerable part of her summer routine.

“My summer schedule is more intense since most of the triathlons are in the summer or early fall,” explains Watt, who says she started running in law school to help her sleep at night and keep her weight down. “By the time I was in graduate school, I was running a lot of 5 km and 10 km races for fun. When I received a fellowship to study in Italy, my then boyfriend (now husband) and I thought it might be fun to run a marathon, so we signed up for Venice and started training.” In 2000, to celebrate her husband’s 40th birthday, the pair competed in an Ironman competition. “We thought it would be a great way to mark the occasion.”

An Ironman competition involves running 26.2 miles, swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112 miles, all on the same day. Watt is training for her next event, a much shorter triathlon on July 9 in Ponte Vedra Beach. “In that race, we will swim in the ocean and run and bike on county roads.”

Typically, Watt trains six days a week during the summer. “A usual week looks like this: Monday, bike an hour or so; Tuesday, swim 45 minutes to an hour in the morning and run approximately six miles during the evening; Wednesday, bike about 20 miles during the morning; Thursday morning, a longer swim and running about six to eight miles during the evening; Friday, off; Saturday, run 10–15 miles; and Sunday, bike 40 to 50 miles then a short run of about 2–3 miles.”

Watt says the closer the date to an Ironman competition, the longer the workouts become. “It culminates in a 100-mile bike ride followed by an 18-mile run about three weeks before the race. Then I will start to ‘taper’ by reducing my workouts to rest my body for the big effort.”

Having already competed in five events this year, Watt says her dream competition is the Hawaii Ironman, held annually in October. “I think that running, especially with a detailed training plan, gives you the discipline and the organization needed to complete large projects like dissertations, books, etc.” says Watt. “It also gives me a sense of accomplishment each day which puts me in a pretty positive frame of mind. I believe training helps with my research, my teaching and sets a good example for my students.”

—Allyson A. Beutke and Buffy Lockette

Courtesy Gene Dunnam (Dunnam)
Courtesy Karelisa Hartigan (Hartigan)
Courtesy Jean Bennet (Kwolek-Folland)
Courtesy Mary Watt (Watt)

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