Classroom to be dedicated to beloved professor, administrator

By MARIANA ZEPEDA ’14

Staff Writer

Something of an anomaly in Pendleton East’s decidedly more modern interior, PNE 251 is one of the most beautiful classrooms in the College. Since last spring, the seminar room has been under renovation in honor of Professor Edward Stettner of the Department of Political Science, who passed away in March only four years into his retirement. The department will hold a dedication ceremony on Nov. 12, renaming the room the Edward A. Stettner Political Science Library.

Shortly after Stettner’s passing, the department convened to discuss ways to honor the late faculty member. “He passed away unexpectedly,” Professor William Joseph said. As chair of the Political Science department, Joseph has been heading the classroom renovation. “It was Professor [Stacie] Goddard who suggested, why don’t we renovate 251 and dedicate it in his honor?”

An eminent figure, Stettner was beloved by the department and the College. He joined the Political Science department in 1966 and taught there until 2008. He focused on American politics and political theory, through which “he taught Wellesley students to treasure the American tradition of democratic theory,” as Professor Roxanne Euben wrote in a Wellesley Magazine article memorializing the late professor. As well as being a leading expert in his field, Stettner was a wise and patient teacher. He won the Pinanski Prize in 1997. 

During his time at Wellesley, Stettner also took on a variety of administrative roles, at which he excelled. A kind and perceptive administrator, he acted as chair of the Political Science department several times over the years. He also relocated to Green Hall at two different periods during his tenure, serving as dean of the faculty from 1984 to 1988 and associate dean of the College from 1977 to 1986.

“His word was eminently reliable, his advice temperate, his constancy a bedrock of the department,” Euben wrote in her article.

Stettner had an influence beyond his department, and faculty members from multiple disciplines are helping to put together the library.

“There was just a sense that he was someone who had made a lot of contributions to the College in all these different ways and [the Political Science department] wanted to acknowledge these contributions,” Professor Courtney Coile of the Economics department said.

Coile is the Pendleton East faculty director. She oversees and helps coordinate changes that are made to the building. When the Political Science department began talking about the renovation of PNE 251 earlier this year, Joseph went to Coile to discuss the logistics of the project. She collaborated with the department to secure funding and conceptualize the new space.

PNE 251 has long been a hallmark of Pendleton East. When the building underwent a dramatic renovation in 2000, it was decided that the classroom would maintain its quintessentially Wellesley look, Coile explained.

It is fitting to honor the esteemed professor through the renovation of this particular seminar room. 

“When I talked to Professor Stettner’s family, his wife was thrilled,” Joseph said. “She said this was his favorite room to teach in.”

Located on the second floor of Pendleton East, the small seminar room is a favorite among faculty and students alike. The classroom has a dual designation as both PNE 251 and the Political Science library, and classes taught there span a variety of disciplines.

The renovation has centered on two aspects of the classroom: the large conference table that sits at the center, which is now longer and more narrow, and the elegant wooden bookshelves that line the walls.

Though through the course of the semester the bookshelves have gradually filled up, they generally remain quite bare. However, their emptiness draws attention to the refinished wood and original moldings, which match those around the ceiling lamps. The bookcases are original to the building and have remained there through the Pendleton renovation.

Joseph worked alongside consultant Rania Bartick, who helped the department reconceptualize the space. The room doesn’t get much natural light, so Bartick suggested that lights be installed on top of the bookshelves to illuminate the dim room.

The question of what the bookshelves should display has been at the center of the process. They used to be cluttered with a disparate collection of books in a madness without method. 

“It was mostly with a ragtag collection of paperback books that professors didn’t have room for in their offices anymore,” Joseph said.

He consulted with Ian Graham, the director of Archives and Special Collections at Clapp Library, to discuss the possibility of acquiring tomes that the library no longer needs for PNE 251. Some journals and government documents in the library collection tend to be consulted electronically by faculty and students, and therefore Clapp Library can spare them.

 “It has given [the library] an incentive to look more carefully at some of the stuff we have,” Graham said. “It’s nice to know that some of those really good-looking sets of volumes could have another home on campus.”

The shelves will also display a collection of student theses, which the department has kept for years but which remain in poor condition. Graham suggested that the department give the theses a professional binding in order to display them on the shelves.

“I think it’s a nice celebration of the department’s scholarship—the students’ scholarship that’s been done under the advisement of the department faculty—to have those in that room,” Graham said.

Professors also believe that the showcasing of student thesis work will be meaningful for both faculty and students.

“It is a very significant piece of work for students,” Coile said. “It’s very nice to acknowledge it. It’s really in proportion to the work that went into them.”

Efforts have also been made to make technological devices in the room more easily accessible. Additionally, a wooden panel is in the works and will cover the technology equipment, which looks out of place in the room.

“The overall effect is going to be just a really comfortable, beautiful, inspiring space for a classroom and for people to spend some time in there as more of a library space when it’s not in use as a classroom,” Coile said.

To commemorate Stettner, Joseph plans to install a plaque on the door that will read “Edward A. Stettner Political Science Library”—though the room’s official designation will remain PNE 251, seminar room. He also plans to install a framed copy of Euben’s article, likely at the entrance of the room or in a nook in between bookshelves.

For now, the room remains in a state of necessary clutter characteristic of any transitional period. Boxes of old Foreign Affairs journals sit on the floor and window seat, waiting to be arranged  on the shelves. An empty can of Diet Coke sits on a windowsill next to the classroom clock, which has not been hung up.

But the department expects the room to be ready by Nov. 12 for the dedication ceremony, which will be held in the Pendleton Atrium at 4:30 p.m. Friends and family of Stettner will be in attendance and those who wish to pay their respects to the esteemed professor are welcome.

“[Stettner] was a major figure on campus and really a model citizen of Wellesley. He just had such an unusually wonderful way of dealing with people,” Joseph said. “There’s great love for him in our department.”

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