By Christy Ulmet and Bailey Basham
At the end of the semester, four long-time faculty members will retire.
Trevecca employs about 100 faculty members, according to Steve Pusey, university provost. Each year around three to four faculty retire.
Here are some short stories about this year’s retirees.
Dr. Doug Lepter
Nearly 25 years. That is how long Doug Lepter, professor of communications and chair of the department of communications studies, has worked at Trevecca Nazarene University.
For longer than most of its students have been alive, Lepter has worked to educate students in Trevecca’s communications department. Serving as the communication studies department chair, Lepter has taught classes focusing mainly on organization and interpersonal communication. Lepter joined Trevecca’s teaching faculty in the fall of 1992 after completing his doctoral coursework, but he hasn’t always been a college professor.
Lepter said he felt the growing call to ministry in Christian higher education through different stages of his life. He began his work through continuing studies at Asbury Theological Seminary for his Masters degree and continued on to the University of Kentucky for his Ph.D. He also served as a pastor at a church in Kentucky during this time.
Lena Welch, dean of the school of arts and sciences, said Lepter has applied many of his pastor experience in the classroom.
“He brings a pastor’s heart into teaching and advising. He is a friend to students, and he is endlessly passionate and supportive,” Welch said.
Some of the classes he teaches include theories of communication, advanced public speaking and principles of public relations, but Lepter said his favorite class to teach is interpersonal communication, with intercultural communication and organizational communication following closely behind.
Some things students may not know about Lepter is that he has an interest in target shooting, stamp collecting and reading. He and his wife of 44 years, Samuella, have one son and four grandsons.
Lepter had some advice he wanted to leave for students: think less of yourself.
“Now that sounds contrary to what we stereotypically teach in communication studies…nonetheless, thinking less of yourself is the essence of servant leadership understood in our Christian worldview,” he said. “In the spirit of John the Baptist, [Jesus] must increase, and we must decrease.”
Lepter, who said he is excited to take lots of long, meaningful naps when he retires, will finish his 24-year career at Trevecca at the conclusion of this school year.
Ms. Becky Niece
Becky Niece has worked as the university registrar since 1997 and served as the assistant registrar for four years prior. But in June, she’s hanging up her hat and retiring after 31 years of working at Trevecca. Before she began working in the office of the registrar, Niece was a graduate assistant at the university after she graduated with an executive secretarial bachelor of science in 1970. She said she’s enjoyed being on campus with students over the years.
“Becky is about as sincere and authentic as you can get,” said Dr. Tom Middendorf, associate vice president for academic services, who has worked alongside Niece over the years. “She deeply cares about her job and the people she is serving. She has always been a person that will go the extra mile and demonstrated a Christ-like attitude in her work.”
Nice helped Trevecca transition through two operating system overhauls, which was a long process that she took with stride.
“I owe Trevecca for what I am today,” she said. “And wanting to be a part of the team at Trevecca as an employee, I felt like that would be the best opportunity to impact and minister to other students. Needless to say there has been a great opportunity for that here.”
Niece said that her advice to current and future students is to not be afraid to take on new tasks.
“I would like to [encourage] the college generation to be determined to take on responsibilities and follow through. Life is ahead of the students, and the sooner they can learn to be responsible and follow through with things, the better it will be for them in life. I think it will help them to accomplish their goals much easier,” Niece said.
Dr. Timothy Cierpke
Those at Trevecca are probably quite familiar with the perfect hum of the Madrigalians, whether from chapel or at a concert in the Cathedral of the Incarnation downtown Nashville. The prestigious a cappella music group began in 1983 under the direction of Prof. Mary Bates George, and was later taken over by Timothy Cierpke, professor of music, in 1992.
Cierpke said the style of the Madrigalians is classical, with the implementation of straight-tone music and is led by student conductors and directors within the group.
The group works very hard to include the more 300 alumni in their yearly gatherings, tours and more. These kinds of gatherings create a strong bond between both current students and alumni, Cierpke said. During the 1992-93 school year, the group began a tradition of inviting all alumni to the front to sing with them for their last song, “A Gaelic Blessing,” as the benediction.
David Diehl, current chair of the department of music and dean of the school of music and worship arts, said he got to know Cierpke years ago. He began as Cierpke’s student in his senior year at Trevecca and reconnected when he returned to campus as a junior faculty member in 1997.
“Dr. Cierpke was one of my primary encouragers and mentors, and I am glad that over time we became colleagues and friends,” Diehl said.
Cierpke said some of his favorite memories from his time at Trevecca include the seven “EuroTours” taken by the Madrigalians. The trips, which were held every four years, were open to both current students and alumni.
The Madrigalians became a family affair for Cierpke when all four of his children participated in the group during their college years.
“Being a part of all things musical was a natural thing for them, and I was pleased to have them around, obviously,” he said.
While the Madrigalians are the most notable of his career, they’re certainly not the only group Cierpke has taken on.
Cierpke also leads choral union, a choir made up of various students from different departments at Trevecca. Additionally, he took on the role of conductor for the Trevecca Symphony Orchestra during his first year teaching at the university in 1988.
Cierpke will be retiring from his 28-year tenure at Trevecca at the end of this school year.
The final Madrigalians concert will be held at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in downtown Nashville on Sunday, May 1 at 2:00 p.m. The concert will be open to the public.
Dr. Linda Collins
From Metro Nashville school teacher and principal to Trevecca Nazarene University director of advanced graduate programs, Linda Collins has influenced many students during her time in education.
Collins has been at Trevecca since 2006 where she began working as an associate professor. In 2012, her role at the university changed to program director for graduate studies and grant related programs.
“After a lengthy and distinguished career in the Metro Nashville School system as a classroom teacher and long-time elementary school principal… [Collins came on] full-time at Trevecca and part-time this year when she offered to delay her retirement to assist the teacher education program through our reaffirmation of national accreditation and the state approval process,” said Pusey.
In 2008, Collins was recognized as Metro Nashville Public School’s Elementary Principal of the Year.Collins did not return contact for requests for an interview.