Dr. Mark Robison is cleaning out his office. He’s been an English professor at Union for 25 years, including chair of the Division of Humanities. He is packing up boxes with memories. He finds a program for the production of The Minister’s Black Veil that he directed at Union College. He runs his finger down the credits and talks about the students who put on that play. He finds a photo of himself acting in a play from back when he was a student at Walla Walla University. He was a journalism major at the time, but his love for the footlights was strong. “If there was a theater minor, I would have been there,” he says.
A box he is packing contains a literature textbook from his time as an English teacher at El Dorado Adventist School near Sacramento, California. It was his first job after college. A copy of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream reminds him of his move to Columbia Adventist Academy near Portland, Oregon.
During the summer breaks, he drove south to New Mexico to work on his master’s degree. He’s all about family, so he brought his wife, Linda, and their two kids along to Santa Fe. They camped in a 15-foot travel trailer. He studied Aristotle, Descartes, and Hobbes during the day. In the evenings, they played Pig Mania, rolling little plastic pigs like dice. The worn game box sits on a shelf in his office.
Robison “was discovered” by Buell Fogg, who had come to Columbia Adventist Academy to present a Week of Prayer. Union was looking for an English professor with theater experience.
“I really enjoyed being in the classroom and engaging with the puzzle of how students learn,” says Robison. “If you can turn the light on for somebody, great!”
He turned the light on for many students. Communication major Lacey Stecker remembers when she was stumped by a piece of software in screenwriting class. “We sat down for an hour, and he explained everything to me,” says Lacey. “That was so helpful. He combines high standards with mercy.”
Now it is summer, and the building is mostly empty. He has sorted through the books on his shelves and put out many of them as giveaways. As Robison leaves the stage, it seems like there should be a crowd of grateful students to cheer and applaud. But he always told his theater students, “You don’t do it for the applause.” Robison impressed on them that they needed to understand what they had achieved without depending on the cheers.
Does he know what he has done at Union College? Is he satisfied with this part of his career? He doesn’t take long to answer. “I have a deep sense of accomplishment,” he says. No applause is necessary.
By Kim Peckham