On a warm and sunny day in the late 1970s, Carolyn Dale was walking by the Fairhaven Outback Farm on her way to College Hall. A goat had escaped the farm and began chasing Dale, lunging for the straw hat on her head. She was eventually able to outrun the goat, but for Dale, who will retire next month, this experience symbolizes the changes Western has gone through over the past several decades, evolving from a small state college to a major regional university.
Dale had never thought about teaching until serving as a teaching assistant in graduate school at the University of Washington. While working at the Bellingham Herald in 1977, she was approached by Pete Steffens, the director of Western’s Journalism Department at the time, to teach newswriting. It was an easy decision for her, as Western’s Journalism Department was well respected throughout the Northwest.
In 1984 she became a full-time assistant professor, then in 1989 she was tenured and promoted to associate professor. Dale served as the department chair of the Journalism department for four years, helping establish the Public Relations major and transition Planet magazine into one of Western’s four student publications. In the last few years she helped develop and teach the professional editing program for Extended Education so community members could receive certificates in professional editing. She also co-authored with Tim Pilgrim “Fearless Editing: Crafting Words for Print, Web and Public Relations,” a textbook that combines multiple types of editing techniques and multimedia applications.
Dale’s favorite part of teaching has been interacting with students.
“Some mornings I come in to teach and I feel like I’m sucking in their youthful energy,” she said. “Being a part of their creative process is really amazing.”
Dale said she has been lucky to work with colleagues who have been both challenging and supportive. Throughout her time at Western, she has been involved in hiring and mentoring almost all the current faculty in the Journalism department. Pilgrim, her husband, retired from Western last year after teaching in the Journalism department since 1992.
She will officially retire on Sept. 15 and plans to continue to travel and write fictional novels and short stories.
Dale said the immense changes in media have kept journalism, and the content of the courses, constantly evolving. She never imagined she would do the same job for so long, but Western was the perfect place for her.
“It’s always been a wonderful aspect to say I’ve been a professor here,” she said. “I’m sure I will miss being a part of this big entity.”