Greenlee lecturer John Thomas has taught students how to use their creative minds and build what they saw in their heads for the past nine years. But for the past nine years, John Thomas also has had a two-and-a-half-hour commute – each way.
Thomas and his wife moved to Iowa City from Newton in 2004 to be closer to their sons and grandchildren. Thomas retired from Maytag Corp. in 2004, after which he decided to try his hand at teaching.
He wrote to several universities expressing his interest in teaching but did not hear back from any. As his house was being built in Iowa City, Thomas got a call from Iowa State and accepted a job at the Greenlee School.
This semester, Thomas departs from his house at 5 a.m. so he can get to work in time to prep for his first class at 9:30 a.m. He and his wife still own a house in Newton, so Thomas stays there during the week and then heads back to Iowa City on Thursday mornings.
After nine years, Thomas says the commute has become too much for him and he has decided to retire from teaching at Iowa State, but that doesn’t mean teaching is ruled out for the future. When Thomas leaves Hamilton Hall for the final time this spring, he says he will miss being able to open his students to a world of creativity.
“I teach a creative seminar, which started out as being only a seminar for 15 students,” Thomas says. “I now have 86 this semester. We create wild and wonderful things, people make things, we do projects and it’s just a lot of fun.”
This will be the second year in a row that Greenlee faculty and staff say goodbye to a retiring teacher.
Richard Doak, a 1962 journalism graduate, began teaching in 2007 after retiring from the Des Moines Register, with more than 40 years under his belt. While at the Register, Doak worked as a reporter, business editor, editorial writer, editorial-page editor and columnist. In 2007, the Greenlee School awarded him its James W. Schwartz Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism and Communication.
While Doak might not be at the Greenlee School anymore, he still teaches an Iowa history course for Simpson College on its Des Moines campus once a week.
Teaching journalism and teaching history might seem like to very different things, but to Doak, who earned his master’s degree in history from Iowa State in 1964, the differences are subtle.
“History is more lecture-style teaching and teaching journalism is more interactive,” Doak says. “I’ve always liked interacting with my students.”