For over 25 years the classrooms at PWSCC were graced with the presence of a husband and wife team who brought to our college an array of talents. Dr. Robert Benda (called Bob by students and colleagues alike) joined the faculty in 1985 and was followed shortly by Jo Ann. Bob taught a wide range of classes during those years from environmental studies and logic to statistics and biology. (However, he often complained that he really should be able to teach Music Appreciation as well! That was a long-running joke at faculty meetings.)
Bob served PWSCC in vital ways. He was the ACCFT Campus Representative and Board Member for many years. One of his most critical contributions to the college was his position on the Assessment Task Force and his role as the data manager for the assessment process. During the early years of the college, Bob was one of the reasons for our successful Elderhostel program. Those elderly students loved his classes on natural history in the Sound not only because of the remarkable photographs he shared but also because they could hear his booming voice.
When Bob was not in the classroom or office, he was out in nature seeking that special moment when he could catch the image of an eagle in flight. Bob is one of our community’s most ardent environmental advocates. He has served on the Regional Citizens Advisory Council (RCAC) and is one of our local experts on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. He was even a participant in the Discovery Channel’s video program of the spill. In addition, he has worked on a green crab trapping project for the Smithsonian Institute and serves as a volunteer for sea mammals and bird rescues.
One student remarked that her favorite class at PWSCC was the trekking class. Bob took a group of students who would normally still be in bed on a Saturday morning up in the mountains, hiking for miles through incredible vistas, even crossing a beaver dam. His knowledge of our area’s natural history is matched only by his sense of humor. Faculty meetings will never be the same without his jovial presence.
Jo Ann has been responsible for Developmental Education at PWSCC for over 20 years. In the 1990s she served as the Chair for Rural Alaska Teacher Education (RATE), and at least one of her students now teaches at Hermon Hutchens. She has been a key part of the development of our Consortium Library over the years and has given endless hours to the assessment process for the English programs. Jo Ann brings compassion and clarity to her teaching. Students gained the necessary confidence in her classes to succeed in other academic work.
Jo Ann has shared many interests with Bob, belonging also to RCAC and the Friends of the Animal Shelter. She also has a love of wildlife photography. Their photos are among some of the most sought after items at our annual scholarship auction. Many of you may not know that Jo Ann is also a poet. The college’s literary journal from the 1990s, Soundings, included several of her poems.
We at PWSCC would like to wish Bob and Jo Ann much happiness and fun on their next big journey– Retirement. Thank you so much for all your efforts over the past many years!