Three Oxford faculty members retire

The end of the academic year also marks the end of the long, influential teaching careers of three Oxford College faculty.

Maria Archetto, associate professor of music; Steve Baker, professor of biology; and Eloise Carter, professor of biology, will retire on August 1.

All three have helped shape Oxford, serving together under four deans and five university presidents. They have seen instruction move from pre-internet, print and paper-based techniques to the digital platforms of the twenty-first century. They advised and taught students through the Gulf War, the aftermath of September 11, the Great Recession, and a global pandemic. They have seen Oxford’s enrollment double from about 500 in the 1990s to approximately 1,000 in the last few years.

During their decades at Oxford, they have each built a legacy of excellent teaching, commitment to their chosen academic fields, and most of all, dedication to their students. The Oxford College community is grateful.

Maria Archetto

Maria Archetto began her dedication to music as a child taking piano lessons in her native Rhode Island. She continued her studies into college, earning a BS degree in music education summa cum laude at Rhode Island College, where she received the Hohenemser Award for academic achievement. Later she earned an MA and PhD in musicology at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. She taught music history at Nazareth College of Rochester, Syracuse University, and the Eastman School before joining Oxford College in 1992.

At Oxford, she has been a one-woman music program, teaching music appreciation, music history, and music theory. She directed the Oxford Chorale and the Oxford Chamber Ensemble, whose quality and precision have made their winter and spring concerts some of the year’s most anticipated events for both the college and local community. For most of her tenure, she also oversaw Oxford’s Lyceum and Oxford Studies series, which bring outstanding lectures and arts performances from around the world to Oxford’s campus.

Her excellence in teaching and overseeing Oxford’s musical efforts earned her numerous accolades. These include being twice the recipient of the Mizell Award, which recognizes an educator at Oxford College who has made exceptional contributions in furthering the education of Oxford students. In 2015 she received the Emory Williams Award, Emory University’s highest award for excellence in teaching, given annually to faculty members in each college, graduate school, and professional school of the university, and in 2019 she received the Fleming Award for Teaching and Service.

Pierce Chair of Religion David Gowler, who heads Oxford’s Humanities Division, attests, “Dr. Archetto’s breadth of knowledge and talent is amazing, which, along with her apparently inexhaustible energy, has enabled her to do the work of two people with the music program for almost three decades. I am exceedingly grateful not just for what Dr. Archetto has accomplished — which is significant — but also for who she is as a person and for what she means in the lives of her students, colleagues, Humanities Division, college, and community.”

Outside the classroom, Archetto has focused her academic pursuits and research on Italian vocal music. As a Fulbright scholar and a Delmas Foundation Fellow, she conducted research in Italy on the 16th-century Paduan composer Francesco Portinaro. She is the editor of two volumes of madrigals by Portinaro and the author of articles on music history and music education.

In 2007 she was the recipient of the Gregory-Rackley Faculty Career Development Award, which she used to present concerts of the music of Portinaro in Atlanta and Oxford with professional early music performers. In 2008 she released a CD featuring two 17th-century oratorios , Jonas and Jephte, by Giacomo Carissimi, performed by the Oxford College Chorale and Atlanta early-music ensemble New Trinity Baroque.

She has performed with the Oxford Chorale and Chamber Ensemble at many community events, including the 175th anniversary convocation of the City of Oxford and the 150-year celebration of the founding of Grace United Methodist Church in Covington.

Steve Baker

Professor of Biology Steve Baker joined the faculty of Oxford College in 1990. A native of Tennessee, he earned a BS degree in wildlife management and an MS in zoology with concentration in stream ecology from Tennessee Technological University. He received a PhD in zoology with concentration in fisheries management from Southern Illinois University.

Prior to joining Oxford College, Baker served as a fisheries biologist for the state of Arkansas. His academic and research interests have been concentrated on stream ecology and the assessment of pollution impacts through the use of aquatic organisms.

He brought these to bear in two important efforts during his tenure at Oxford: stewardship of the Oxhouse Science Center and directing the Oxford Institute for Environmental Education (OIEE). Oxhouse is a 47-acre site located near the Oxford campus. It comprises a small lake and 40 acres of forest and grassland, which have served as a vital teaching laboratory for science education at Oxford.

In 1991 Baker co-founded OIEE, a summer program designed to help educators in grades K-12 — who were selected through a competitive process — learn more about environmental education and energize their science teaching. Participants learned the basic principles of ecology in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, methods for applying this knowledge to inquiry-based lesson plans, and ways to develop their own schoolyards for environmental education.

In its 24 years, from 1992 through 2015, OIEE trained more than 300 teachers and by extension influenced science education throughout Georgia and the region. The institute was awarded the Certificate of Environmental Achievement Award from the National Awards Council for Environmental Sustainability and received the Conservation Educator of the Year Award from the Georgia Wildlife Federation.

But Baker's real emphasis was on the classroom, teaching Oxford students the tenets of science and biology, while also preparing a large number of them for careers in science and medicine. He taught zoology, cell biology and genetics, anatomy and physiology, and freshwater ecology. In 2005, Oxford recognized his influence as a teacher by rewarding him the Emory Williams Award, Emory University’s highest award for excellence in teaching.

In writing about Baker’s retirement, Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives speaks of his work ”to instill a love and appreciation for the environment in Oxford students and in the surrounding community … [working] with various groups, ranging from Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources to local schools, to lead workshops, seminars, and presentations on stream ecology and environmental education.”

Ken Anderson, Oxford College dean for academic affairs, says, “Dr. Baker has always been a fierce advocate for our students, both to secure the resources they need to succeed and to enforce the rigorous academic standards needed to achieve their potential.”

Eloise Carter

Georgia native Eloise Carter, professor of biology, has spent her career not only teaching biology but also in studying, promoting, and conserving the plants and ecology of her home state.

The granite outcrops of local Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area have been a living laboratory for her courses, and she has cataloged and written about the unique plants found there, compiling her work into Guide to the Plants of Granite Outcrops, a photographic field guide published by the University of Georgia Press in 2000. In 1986, while teaching in the biology department of Emory College, she and Bill Murdy, Emory College biology professor who later became dean of Oxford College, wrote what has become known as the Murdy-Carter Report, a document on the rich diversity of vegetation and hardwood forests at Emory, leading to both the university's first forest protection plan and the foundation of its current land-use plan.

Carter joined the Oxford College faculty in 1988. Her efforts and guidance have resulted in Oxford’s being named to Tree Campus USA for several consecutive years. She led students in regular efforts to eliminate invasive plants in the woods surrounding the Hearn Nature Trail and adjacent to the campus. As a co-founder of the Oxford Institute for Environmental Education, she helped educate hundreds of K-12 teachers from Georgia, Florida, and elsewhere in the Southeast using inquiry to teach science in their schoolyards and bringing environmental science alive in their classrooms.

With Judith Morgan, Emory College professor of biology, she co-authored Investigating Biology, a laboratory manual that features scientific inquiry approached for teaching introductory biology laboratories. Published by Pearson, it is now in its ninth edition.

A brick-and-mortar testament to one of Carter’s greatest contributions to Oxford College stands impressively on the northwest corner of the quad. Oxford’s science building, which opened in 2016, was a long-awaited addition to the college’s classroom and lab space and a fitting building for Oxford’s program in science. Carter was appointed faculty shepherd to lead a team of faculty and staff in developing the building’s vision, design, and construction, a years-long process and commitment.

Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives calls Carter “Oxford’s green conscience.” In its Earth Day 2021 observance, OSI awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award. She and two other Emory champions for sustainability are the first recipients of this honor.

Carter’s numerous other awards include the Association of Southeastern Biologists’ Meritorious Teaching Award, the Oxford College chapter of Phi Theta Kappa’s Teaching Award, and Oxford’s Fleming Award for Excellence in Teaching.

She received the Emory Williams Award, Emory University’s highest award for excellence in teaching. In 2016 she was the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, one of Emory University’s most prestigious honors, given to faculty or staff who have significantly enriched the intellectual and civic life of the Emory community.

Nitya Jacob, professor of biology and chair of Oxford’s Division of Natural Science and Mathematics, says, “Dr. Carter inspired me to ‘reach for the stars,’ to think deeply about my own teaching, and to strive to be an effective leader. She encouraged me from the very beginning and helped me achieve career goals that even I didn’t believe I could accomplish. Her ability to tap into the potential of all students, especially those who aren’t the obvious ones, is something I continue to learn from. I am always struck by her devotion to her students and her passion for biology.”

Speaking of both Baker and Carter, Jacob adds, “They have been my colleagues, mentors, and friends since I started my career at Oxford College in the fall of 2002. Their vision for a thriving academic community and their ability to instill in others a sense of joy for the natural world around us helped me grow professionally and personally.”