If we are lucky in our lives as students, we might find a teacher who inspires a passion for learning and ignites in us an affirmation that we are on the right path.
Dr. Richard Gillin is one of those.
For four decades, Dr. Gillin, Professor of Literature at Washington College and Chair of the Department, was considered by legions of students to be a profound influence on their academic careers. Online appraisals written by his former students reveal a widely revered teacher whose “guidance, expertise, finesse, decency, class, and goodness” became his trademark.
During his tenure at Washington College, Gillin and his wife Barbara, also a teacher at the College, founded and co-chaired a unique learning project, the Kiplin Hall program whose mission to connect “literature and landscape” took the couple and a dozen students each summer to the mountainous Lake District area of England.
Immersed in the British landscape, students would study the region’s famous Romantic poets and hike the rugged terrain in what Gillin calls a kind of literary “bootcamp.”
While there, students also discovered a remarkable link between the founding of Maryland and the four-hundred-year-old manor house they were using as a home base; Kiplin Hall, the ancestral estate of Lord Calvert. Calvert and his son Cecil Calvert went on to found Maryland’s first settlement in the 1600s as a haven for persecuted Catholics.
In 2014, Gillin was challenged by his wife Barbara and faculty friends to take a sabbatical and write a book. Gillen immediately saw it as an opportunity to reflect on the merits of a liberal arts education using the Kiplin Hall program as a framework and example.
“The book evolved out of our experiences there. I’m hoping people understand that it’s an explanation of what the liberal arts are and how learning history, art, philosophy, literature are so important It’s not a matter of collecting numbers or gathering simple facts. It demands experience, time, and contemplation. My contention is that the trip we put together provided students with those kinds of experiences,” Gillin says.
A Guide to Hiking the Liberal Arts: The Washington College Kiplin Hall Program is a reflection on his years with the Kiplin Hall program and a meditation on the value of a liberal arts education.
At 6 pm March 29, Dr. Gillin will offer a special reading of his newly released book. The Zoom event is sponsored by Washington College’s Rose O’Neill Literary House and requires online registration here. His book is offered on Amazon.