SNU’s beloved Dr. Gwen Ladd Hackler is retiring from a fulfilling career as an English professor and the director of Academic Grants. To thank her for her dedication to SNU and to bid her farewell, ECHO sat down with Dr. Hackler for an interview, hoping to learn more about her life, her time at SNU, and to share some of her knowledge and experience with others.
Dr. Hackler has been teaching at SNU since 1983 after graduating with a doctorate degree in English literature from the University of Kansas. She completed her dissertation on The Faerie Queene, a 16th-century allegorical poem by Edmund Spenser.
Dr. Hackler became interested in English from a young age, describing how she had grown up around books. ”There were always books in our house, and my mom would take me to the Bookmobile,” Dr. Hackler recalled. “So when we went to get groceries, we’d always stop off at the bookmobile… I would get new books every week.” She also received discounts on books from her local bookstore, where she eventually worked.
“I read all the time,” she said, delving into why she decided to pursue English further. In high school, she was in an Honors English class. For this class, she did a research paper on Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. “That was my first dip into looking at literature more in-depth, and getting an idea of the scope of English literature.”
During her first year of college, she took a British literature course, voicing how she fell in love with the old classics, being introduced to The Faerie Queene. “By the time I ended my freshman year, I knew I was an English major,” she explained.
In her time at SNU, Dr. Hackler conveyed how deeply she cares about students, happy to have been able to teach those in the Honors program. She also indicated that she was proud to have secured a grant for SNU for the McNair Scholars Program; she feels it has been very vital in providing support for students who want to move further in their field of interests with graduate work, helping prepare them and secure needed resources.
Dr. Hackler highly values students, regarding them as bright, wanting to see them motivated and succeed. “It’s always important to me to do a directed study with a student, or offer options for students to follow their noses on papers and presentation topics.” She thinks curiosity in students should be encouraged, stating, “Curiosity is a thing that can explode during college… It really is important to nurture that.”
Offering parting advice to students, Dr. Hackler remarks, “College is a key time.” She declares that college is an opportunity that students should make the most of. “It is a luxury to be able to study.” As an avid traveler to all parts of the UK, having gone on more than 30 trips to date, she adds that she wants students to travel. “Do something to get out of Bethany occasionally. Travel! Travel changes you, it changes the way you think, and the way you understand the world. It’s worth every penny.”
Since retiring, she commented on having a lot more free time, enjoying virtual tours and spending time with her husband and dogs, Winston and Lu. For the future, she plans to read more books, dabble in writing, travel, volunteer to work for nonprofits, and to learn to cook medieval recipes.
SNU thanks Dr. Hackler for all she has done for the institution and its students. She will be greatly missed, just as she has expressed she will miss us.