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New associate history professor is excited about BPC’s, area’s past
Mary A. Waalkes
MOUNT VERNON—Brewton-Parker College’s newest associate professor of history, Mary A. Waalkes, plans to get to know South Georgia’s history a bit better now that she’s a full-time resident.
She’s especially interested in discovering the Historic Village on the Mount Vernon campus.
The village, located on Jones Lake across from the president’s home, consists of two historic cabins acquired and restored by the college in the last decade. One cabin, the Cooper-Conner house built circa 1798, is believed to be the oldest house in Montgomery County. In addition to her teaching duties, Waalkes will be working with the Social and Behavioral Sciences division to increase public awareness of this unique college feature.
“I hope to work with many people in the area in making the Cooper-Conner village more accessible to the community,” Waalkes says. “The buildings are themselves restored, but need maintaining. Members of the college and the local community have done sterling work over the past decade in outfitting the house and opening it up to the public. The second house, the Berry-Thompson cabin, is more recently acquired and I believe was constructed later than the Cooper-Conner cabin.”
Waalkes explains the cabins’ history is still being researched, and in one case, still being written.
“The date the Cooper-Conner house was built is in dispute, with some people thinking that it dates to around 1828 rather than 1798. Also, there is mention of peep-holes placed (in the walls) to watch for Indians—but apparently that has been debunked,” she says. “The holes were for ropes that attached an outside chimney, which could be cut away if the chimney caught on fire, which happened frequently.”
Waalkes adds, “We have a good collection of material, but probably will continue to add to it. There’s a lot of great stuff we could do with the site.”
Originally from Colorado, Waalkes moved to Brewton-Parker from a teaching position at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., where she taught history for six years. Before that, she was a history professor at Idaho State University from 1998 to 2000. Waalkes holds a bachelor of science in secondary education from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a master’s and Ph.D. in history from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
“I enjoy teaching just about any area of history,” she says. “My area of interest as a graduate student was in the South, and in African American history, and I still enjoy teaching those topics. I like colonial American history, and also teaching the Gilded Age/Progressive Era. (It’s) hard to find an era I don’t like to teach… ok, I am not particularly fond of prehistoric eras.”
In her free time, the proud parent of “four wonderful cats” enjoys “reading mysteries, puttering around in the garden and driving around the area learning more about South Georgia.” Waalkes is the oldest of nine children and keeps in contact with her parents, brothers and sisters, many of whom live in Colorado.
When asked for a little known fact about herself, she relates the opportunity to witness the beginning of a fox hunt in England.
“It was colorful and I learned a few things about whippers-in and stoppers-up,” Waalkes says with a smile. “I also learned that the dogs are never called dogs – they’re hounds. There was quite a lot of tradition and pageantry to it.”
Dr. Lee Cheek, chair of the division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, was a colleague of Waalkes at Lee University before returning to Brewton-Parker. He recruited and hired Waalkes over the summer to fill a position left by long-time history professor Dr. Larry Toll.
“Our Division faced the challenge of finding a successor for a professor who had served nearly two decades on our faculty. We needed someone who could teach, serve as a mentor to our students, and integrate faith and learning in his or her teaching. Such a person is a rarity, and we were blessed to find such a person in Dr. Mary Waalkes,” Dr. Cheek said. “Mary possesses a great ability to reach out to all students, while affirming the highest academic standards, and living a life of faithfulness. (She) also has significant research interests that will be of importance to Brewton-Parker College in the years to come.”
Waalkes appreciates support from her “good friend” and is excited about a new beginning at Brewton-Parker this fall.
“I look forward to teaching a wide variety of courses, working with people in the college and local community on the Cooper-Conner site, and getting to know colleagues and students. I also have some research interests that I would like to continue to work on,” Waalkes adds. “I am very pleased to be here.”