by Jo Miller
There is soon to be an empty office in downstairs Lindaman as valued communications studies professor Ginny Whitehouse leaves Whitworth at the end of the semester.
Whitehouse accepted a position at Eastern Kentucky University teaching journalism classes starting in the fall. Part of her job there will be to work with the school’s faculty to bring the curriculum into the social media and multimedia era. All of which are excellent opportunities, Whitehouse said.
“But I will be very sad to leave Whitworth and everyone here and all my friends and wonderful students,” Whitehouse said.
The decision to make the move centers on her desire to be closer to her family in the South. Whitehouse’s sister, mother and brothers are ecstatic about her coming.
Whitehouse’s two adopted Chinese daughters, Kaili and Marie, ages 10 and 6, are nervous about leaving, but are excited for the new adventure. Whitehouse’s sister has two Chinese children of the same age living in Nashville, Tenn. The four children are very close, Whitehouse said.
Coming to Whitworth
It has been 15 years since Whitehouse first joined the Whitworth faculty in 1996.
Whitworth communication studies professor, Mike Ingram, has known Whitehouse since 1982 when they were friends and debate teammates at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn.
“We laughed a lot that a pair of college friends were now academic professionals across the country,” Ingram said.
Gordon Jackson, chair of the communications studies department, previously knew Whitehouse through professional associations. When the communications studies department was looking for a new journalism faculty member, Jackson suggested contacting Whitehouse. She applied and was the department’s top choice.
“She brought new ideas and fresh eyes to our program,” Ingram said.
Kathy Fechter, academic program assistant, said Whitehouse brought a lot of laughter, and was vivacious, energetic and very thoughtful.
Communications studies professor Ron Pyle said Whitehouse has maintained consistency over the years since starting at Whitworth.
“Her generosity and commitment to students and Whitworth’s mission is the same now as when she first arrived,” Pyle said.
A multidimensional job
Besides being a communications studies professor, Whitehouse has played a rather multifaceted role at Whitworth. She has been a student advisor, an internship supervisor, an Act Six mentor and she has added experiential and service learning components to several classes.
Working with Act Six students is something Whitehouse particularly enjoyed. She helped with organizing the intercultural academic mentor program and paired incoming Act Six students with a faculty mentor.
One student she mentored, Whitworth alumnus Dan Quarless, said Whitehouse greatly influenced his life.
“She very much kept me in line while I was at Whitworth,” Quarless said, “She always made sure I was on top of my game.”
Whitehouse definitely challenged him, Quarless said. There was an instance when he informed Whitehouse he had done poorly on a chemistry test. She asked Quarless where the test was and he told her he had thrown it away. She made him go out in the rain and retrieve the test from the garbage.
“She was a major part of everything I did at Whitworth,” Quarless said, “Whitworth won’t nearly be as strong without her.”
One class Whitehouse was particularly pleased with was her article and feature writing class last Jan Term. Part of the class included sending students out to live with Hmong-American and Russian-American families and having them write stories about the experience. This is something Whitehouse had wanted to happen for the 15 years she’s been at Whitworth.
Holly Gregg, junior communications studies major, was in article and feature writing and said it was her favorite class in the communications studies department. It was structured so it felt just like working in a newsroom, getting up early to write a story and coming to class in the afternoon to edit it.
Whitehouse sat down with each student and helped them edit so they could learn about writing style. Whitehouse did a really good job of seeing each student and figuring out what each one needed, Gregg said.
“I love teaching students about the things I care about,” Whitehouse said, “I care about them writing well and telling other people’s stories well. I care about helping them make good ethical decisions. I care about them learning how to live and work with people who are different from them.”
Whitehouse is an incomparable colleague
Jackson described Whitehouse’s time here as “15 years of first-rate collegiality.”
“Ginny has been a wonderful brightening force,” Jackson said. “She is lively, she is an enormous amount of fun and she is a colleague who sharpens the intellects of her colleagues by not letting us get away with sloppy thinking or low standards.”
Esther Louie, assistant dean of intercultural student affairs, has worked with Whitehouse through the Act Six program and recognizes her ability to make things happen.
“I love working with Ginny,” Louie said, “She’s really creative. She has a great can-do attitude.”
Whitehouse knows not being around her colleagues everyday will be difficult and still hasn’t gotten her head around the fact she truly is leaving.
“I am deeply indebted to my colleagues and working in a wonderful department. We are genuinely friends and support each other,” Whitehouse said.
Students as friends
Students of Whitehouse’s see the same good things in her as her colleagues do. Two communication studies majors, senior Stephanie Baker and Gregg, are excited for Whitehouse’s new opportunity, but sad about her departure.
Baker said Whitehouse understands students and relates to them effortlessly while never being afraid to challenge them.
“She does a good job of being supportive and challenging at the same time,” Baker said.
Gregg has taken three classes with Whitehouse and remembers what she learns well because of Whitehouse’s extremely animated teaching style.
“Whitehouse got into [her teaching] so much that she became what she was teaching,” Gregg said.
Whitehouse brings energy to the classroom and is a role model for students. Students deeply value her encouragement and strong nudges when a student is delivering less than his or her best, Jackson said.
“It’s very difficult to capture Ginny’s uniquely flamboyant, forceful style,” Jackson said.
The students are Whitehouse’s favorite part of being at Whitworth; they are also her friends and she knows leaving them will be a big loss for her.
“I feel like I am so fortunate to be part of our students’ lives,” Whitehouse said.
The void left behind
There are two effects Whitehouse’s leaving will have on the department, Jackson said. The first is more easily dealt with than the second. The department has to find someone to cover the courses she teaches and will bring in a temporary lecturer for the writing for mass media class and will soon start the process of searching for a replacement faculty member.
The second effect is a more intangible loss, Jackson said. It is much easier to cover courses and assign advisees to new people, but one aspect of her leaving is going to be impossible to assess and address.
“Ginny’s leaving is a huge loss in a whole host of ways. Our biggest loss is her presence and she will not be easily replaced,” Pyle said.
Ingram understands Whitehouse’s pull toward home and family, being a transplanted Southerner himself. At the same time he is sad and greatly aware of the void she will leave.
“I think the whole campus will feel her void; they’ll know she’s gone,” Fechter said.
Fechter is happy for Whitehouse, but will miss her and knows the department will miss her expertise.
“Now it’s up to the department and the administration to do justice to Ginny’s legacy by finding someone who deserves to fill the space she’s leaving in her office, our department and campus as a whole,” Jackson said.