Professor Agnes Moreland Jackson and Tom Ilgen remember their colleague and friend
During twenty-nine years of working together in the English field group at Pitzer College (starting in 1968-1969 when I was in Claremont as a part-time guest lecturer in Black Studies), Ellin and I shared our complementary expertise in British and American Literature. We also worked hard to bring Women’s Studies to the Colleges—Pitzer leading the way as it has done in all things truly progressive in our academic and town and gown community.
In addition to some wonderfully giggly times, our colleagueship was a solid blend of knowledge, love of learning and students, support of a beloved institution, and a deep and abiding love of animals. I’ll always remember Ellin with great affection, and will continue to support the Pitzer scholarship in her name.
—Professor Emerita Agnes Moreland Jackson
Among the wonderful things about Pitzer College is the absence of formal departments and the practice of randomly assigning faculty offices that make it possible, even likely, that one’s closest faculty friends will be those who cultivate very different scholarly terrain. As so it was with Ellin, a student of literature, and me, a student of international politics. We became acquainted in 1985, my first year at the College, when we served together on a personnel review committee. With Ellin’s participation and guidance, the experience of evaluating a young colleague taught me that I had come to an institution that valued good teaching and effective student mentoring above all else. Good scholarship, while important, did not compensate for mediocre classroom performance and indifferent academic advising. Our early service together also taught me that my prose could benefit from Ellin’s careful eye and pointed comments, always graciously offered.
As the years went by, Ellin and I developed a friendship deepened by her interest in politics and mine in literature. She regularly pressed me for opinions about the failures of American policy abroad or the lack of political leadership at home. In her life away from the College, she became something of a political activist, engaging local causes such as homelessness in Laguna Beach and support for the arts and art education in Idylwild. For me and for my wife, Ellin was the consultant that shaped our literary world. She routinely and generously compiled the lists of books that must be read. And so we did, and asked for more.
Ellin also believed that one’s role as an educator extended beyond the classroom and she took an active interest in the lives of her students both at Pitzer and later as young adults. She participated actively in events for Pitzer alumni and was a favorite among those returning to the College for alumni weekends. When she retired from teaching in the ’90s, she remained close to the College and former students. While she took on new challenges in Laguna Beach, spent time with family and traveled widely, she never lost her desire to teach. During a wonderful weekend in Idylwild just last spring, she talked enthusiastically about a course on great works of English literature that she was offering to adult students at the University of California, Riverside. It required a long and difficult drive but she was clearly moved and energized by the opportunity to introduce these older students to classic texts. And they were surely moved and energized in turn.
—The Jones Foundation Professor of Political Studies Tom Ilgen
Alumni, students, faculty and all members of the Pitzer College Community are invited to read rememberances of Professor Ringler-Henderson at www.pitzer.edu/erhtribute.