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Three retiring professors look back on 73 years at Flagler

Mar 16, 2009
by Laura Smith

One is an accomplished historian and long-distance runner. One’s a retired Florida Army National Guard Captain and management whiz. The third is a career educator with a quick laugh and a charming southern drawl. Three distinct personalities, three distinct careers.

“I still get a rush every time it happens,” Thomas Graham said. “Every time I see a student out in the world, achieving something, and I realize that’s the same quiet girl who sits in the back of my class. These students are high achievers — they’re doers. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the capabilities of my students.”

His sentiment rings true for all three retirees, each of whom has seen tremendous changes in the size, technological capabilities and culture of Flagler College. When Graham started in 1973, the college enrolled just 300 students.

“In those days, we all knew each other,” he said. “Today I see new faces all the time, but I think the culture of the College has prevailed, and we are still at our core a group of supportive and creative people.”

When Lou Preysz joined the faculty in 1982, Kenan Hall was still a vacant building.

“We had classes in Ponce Hall, in Markland House, in the Billiard Room,” Preysz said. “There was an old Coast Guard building where the gazebo is today. There was no Proctor Library, no Student Center. It was a different place.”

Graham realized the importance of being involved in the early growth of the college.

“Flagler gave us a chance to invent something,” he said. “We were a part of something. We were creative. We made it happen.”

Graham, a native of Miami, was debating several job offers when he threw his hat into the ring with the 5-year-old college in St. Augustine. “I saw this as an opportunity to get in on the ground floor — literally — and write the future,” he said.

When Preysz took a pleasure trip to St. Augustine in 1982, he was feeling burned out from a long career in banking. The former Florida Army National Guard Captain had been teaching part-time and looking for a full-time position. As he drove down Cordova Street he saw a faded sign: “Flagler College.”

“I have to admit, my first reaction was, ‘My gosh, there’s a college here?’” he remembers. “I pulled in and started wandering the campus. I ran into Dean [Robert] Carberry and pitched him right there on the spot. The rest, I guess you would say, is history.”

In addition to his role as associate professor of business administration, Preysz is known for his service as adviser to Flagler’s Society for Advancement of Management. Preysz recently led the Flagler SAM team to an unprecedented eighth national championship.

By the time Tom Pace signed on in 1996, the college was celebrating the grand opening of Proctor Library. He served as an education professor throughout his tenure and as Chair of the Education Department until 2004. A key force in securing Florida Department of Education accreditation and the state-mandated ESOL endorsement for Flagler, Pace remains unassuming about his professional achievements.

“When I came, all the faculty had been here a long time,” he said. “Now we see much
of the old guard handing over the reins to a younger generation of faculty. I think that’s a good thing. I like progress. It’s very exciting to think about where Flagler is going to be in the next 40 years.”

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