Students, friends and colleagues threw a surprise party the retiring director of the humanities and Catholic culture (HCC) program Monday in Egan Hall, following his last night class.
James Gaston, who holds a doctorate in 19th and 20th century European intellectual history, will retire at the end of this academic year after founding the HCC program at Franciscan University of Steubenville and teaching for 32 years.
The majority of those at the retirement celebration were HCC students and graduates. John Pilsner, who holds a doctorate in comparative literature, and Stephen Krason, who holds a doctorate of jurisprudence, were present, as well as Gaston’s wife.
Students waited in the main lobby while the night class was ending so they could storm Gaston’s classroom right as his last class let out at 8:40 p.m.
Pilsner gave Gaston a gift card, and there was a cake that said, “Congratulations on your next IFWP adventure!” for the attendees to share. IFWP is a concept Gaston taught that signifies ideas, folks, work and place.
Pilsner, who helped host the event, said he wanted Gaston to have a special time to celebrate with his students “after 30 years of shaping and directing the Humanities and Catholic Culture program.”
“Professor Gaston has a particularly close relationship with HCC students because he teaches the program’s unique courses, advises each and every student and directs their theses,” Pilsner said.
Sophomore Dominic Engbert, a humanities and Catholic culture major who attended the party, said, “Dr. Pilsner wanted to do this because Professor Gaston has taught here so long, but he hadn’t heard of any plans from the administration to celebrate the retiring professors.”
Pilsner has been appointed the interim director for the HCC program next year.