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Faculty reflect on 50 years of joyful teaching at London Study Centre

By Robbyn Hopewell
Published November 12, 2020
Categories: About Eckerd, Academics, Global Education
Professor Hamilton takes students to Brixton Market in London

Associate Professor of Management Frank Hamilton (center, in yellow) tours Brixton Market on one of many of his Eckerd College study abroad trips to London.

For 50 years Eckerd College students, faculty and staff have been climbing the stately steps of 35 Gower Street in the heart of London, England, and entering into an exclusive club.

Tritons have spent Winter Terms and Spring and Fall Semesters living in the London Study Centre and adding global perspective to their liberal arts education. By the year 2001, more than 2,000 alumni could call this privilege a part of their Eckerd experience.

Built in 1783, according to retired professor of rhetoric George P. Meese, Ph.D., 35 Gower was the birthplace of William de Morgan, an important ceramic artist of the 19th-century arts and crafts movement. More than a house, for faculty, the London Study Centre holds fond memories of late nights, early mornings, robust conversations and unforgettable learning experiences.

In honor of this Golden Anniversary, faculty shared their reflections on the campus away from campus.

Steven H. Denison, Professor of Biology

“I have enjoyed teaching the ‘History of Science in London’ Winter Term course five times: in 2001, 2003, 2013, 2016 and 2020. We have visited many wonderful sites—including Darwin’s House, Greenwich, Cambridge and Kew Gardens. Recently we have also visited Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing and the codebreakers worked during World War II. I have enjoyed introducing students to this interesting subject.”

Professor Denison with a class in London

2016 “History of Science” Winter Term trip to London, video by Fiona Maguire ’17

Julie Empric, Professor of Literature

“My favorite time as director was in fall term 1989 when, across the channel, the Berlin Wall came down. I arrived in record August heat with 14 students, my husband and two children (then 5 and 8, enrolled in a London school). A proprietor from a nearby B&B managed the Centre. He hired a 19-year-old cook from Belgium—who spoke only French. In addition to exploring London, our “British Seminar” course took us to Ironbridge, Canterbury, Stonehenge, Stratford, Salisbury and Hastings—history literally ‘on the ground.’ My daughter taught the Eckerd students ballet in the common room (even the guys), and everyone took ‘Theatre in London.’ Student rates gave us front-row seats to the best theatre in the world—weekly! One of the students went on to a publishing career, regularly returning to London for work. Another is now a senior business executive and a member of Eckerd’s Board of Trustees—and we’re still sharing fond memories!”

Eckerd College students at the London Study Centre

“In addition to exploring London, our “British Seminar” course took us to Ironbridge, Canterbury, Stonehenge, Stratford, Salisbury and Hastings—history literally ‘on the ground.’” -Professor Empric

Frank Hamilton, Associate Professor of Management

“I have done six Winter Terms in London and one semester abroad (Fall 2016). Taking students abroad is a joy! Some students have never been abroad, and others have been there with their parents when they were younger. It is a learning experience for all, including me. I get to see London through their eyes, so it is a new experience every time. As Samuel Johnson said, ‘If a man grows tired of London, they grow tired of life.’ My courses in London are focused on the street markets and sustainability. Students get a chance to see markets from a new perspective and sustainability from a British point of view in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Visiting London never grows old, and the advantage of the London House is that it is in the center of it all: two blocks from the British Museum and six blocks or so from the Theatre District. What is not to love?”

The London pub experience

Nancy Janus, Professor of Human Development

“I spent Spring Semester of 2007 as faculty-in-residence in the London House. We had 18 students and my daughter and me living in the house, and what a wonderful family we grew to be together. When I look back, I see us all in the dining room together at meal times. Talk, talk, talk! I was hoping to go back in 2015 but, sadly, the house is not wheelchair accessible. I highly recommend a semester’s experience in London for any student hoping to study abroad in an English-speaking environment. London is a marvelous city, and the Eckerd house on Gower Street is perfectly located.”

Bob Jozkowski, Assistant Professor of Finance

“What makes a semester at the London Study Center so compelling is that students and the faculty director are not tourists hitting the usual sites but residents who can dive deeper into the vast opportunities England offers. Of course you go to The Tower; stand on both sides of the Greenwich Meridian; visit Royal Albert Hall, Stonehenge, etc, and, indeed, these places are stunning. But a whole semester frees you to roam the city and countryside to discover far more remarkable places not in the tourist guide. Just walk, and you will find The Hardy Tree behind St. Pancras, a historic narrow boat ride on the Regent’s Canal, the charming seaside nook named Beer, and for those of us of a certain age, walk across Abbey Road’s painted walkway to Apple Studios. And maybe, just maybe, you, too, will score a £5 ticket to Wimbledon. London Study Centre’s perfect location calls you to walk, discover and embrace an incomparable opportunity.”

George P. Meese, Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric

“35 Gower Street is the perfect home base for research teams to fan out across the city and beyond. London’s Urban Ecology class tromped around Greenwich Ecology Park (photo); British Novel students gathered at a mansion overlooking Green Park, listening to Booker Prize author A.S. Byatt (Possession) read from her next novel whilst sipping shandies; the British Seminar crew spent the entire day exploring Hampton Court (photo). During free time, Eckerd singers joined me for John Rutter’s weekend choral workshop at Temple Church (built 1185). At any time, all of us could walk two blocks to behold the original materials of world cultures at the British Museum, or explore free art and science and craft museums. I relished seven semesters and two short terms as London director (1999–2011) thanks to International Education’s careful stewardship of 35 Gower—thank you, Diane Ferris, Molly Ransbury and Sheila Johnston.”

Exploring Hampton Court in 2009

Visiting Greenwich Ecology Park in 2011

Cynthia Totten, Professor of Theatre

“The London Study Centre is located in the heart of central London. From this home base, we launched into magical adventures, seeing world-class theatre productions, touring the Victoria & Albert Museum, traveling to Hampton Court Palace, and visiting beautiful Regents Park. London is a human-sized city, accessible and easy to navigate. At a certain point, a tiny transformative moment happened on every trip. Students would report that someone stopped them on the street and asked for directions. When they told this story, the students’ faces would light up with wonder because they knew the answer and could give the stranger accurate directions. In that moment, students become honorary London citizens, walking the same paths and breathing the same air as thousands of previous Londoners.”