Andrew Pearson '86 is the library director at Bridgewater College in Virginia.
I continue to be profoundly thankful for my education at Wheaton College most every day. I am thankful for the rigor it required of me. I'm thankful for my professors demonstrating to me what excellence looks like and what is required to pursue it. I have fond memories of all my history professors and personal stories and remembrances for each one. Dr. Kay - Latin and humor, Dr. Weaver-mercy, Dr. Maas-music (the 5:15), and Dr. Noll-humor. I always wanted Dr. Rapp, but never got the opportunity. They were a great group from whom to enjoy learning. They were all so congenial and approachable.
What has been your vocational path since graduation? How did you end up where you are and what was the process of getting there? Is this what you expected to be doing?
I graduated in 1986 and within a few weeks of graduation I entered Library School at the University of South Carolina. As I formed my career path to be a college library director in library school, after graduation I immediately went on to complete an M.A. in Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University. From there, I went on to become a reference librarian at Florida Southern College. Five years after that, I was promoted to library director. In 2007, I moved on to be library director at Bridgewater College in Virginia. After 17 years at one institution, I made a move to rebuild a program at another college. That's where I believe my talents lie. I wanted to create a work environment that allowed the staff to enjoy their work and profession and turn the library program around in the process. This is exactly what I wanted to do. I love my job.
Can you share some ways that your history major has enriched your life?
My foundation came from Dr. Kay. His teaching medieval history was a very important to me. But even more formative was Dr. Kay's generosity in taking on teaching a beginning Latin class to a group of fledgling students who had petitioned for getting the class. He had his own very special style that I loved. I've enjoyed Latin ever since that first class with him. His taking time to teach me some basic Latin opened so many doors for me. He also modeled the generosity of servant-leadership. He didn't have to teach that class. As one of the beneficiaries of his time and investment in me, Latin has been key to my enjoyment of history, theology, philosophy, and literature – plus, it's just a fun language that enriches and edifies. Thanks, Dr. Kay.
In light of your own experiences, what advice would you give to undergraduates?
Don't under estimate the power of a "dead" language to enrich your life - all of your life. Don't be the alumnus/alumna looking at the long list of activities on alumni registration you could have been involved in but were too busy studying. Join a group to share your college experience. Remember to absorb the sounds of 2000+ students singing hymns a cappella in Edman - they may pleasantly haunt your memory.
Do you have any advice specifically on making the most of a degree in history?
If you're not planning on being a professor for whatever reason, your value will be enhanced by double majoring or adding some form of a vocational component or degree to your career track. It does not devalue the history degree to do so. It's like a combination of a knife and fork. History, like English and Philosophy, are wonderfully adaptable for whatever you do as well as allowing you to enjoy the richness of life. While content may not directly transfer to a job per se, skills transfer - analysis, evaluations, communication, etc. Paired with the vocational practicality of another instrument, it offers many advantages. After the Wheaton experience, at least for me, graduate school was easy.
If you have gone on to graduate work, can you suggest some tangible connections between your history major and your graduate studies?
My history major was a great basis for a library degree, but also for the second master’s which was history at its base, i.e., Medieval Studies. My second master’s complements a career path in academic libraries. My graduate work in Medieval Studies has been useful in my relations with faculty as well as being personally enriching.