By Elaine Ezekiel News Editor
Over his 92-year lifespan, Wen Chao Chen served Kalamazoo College in many ways, which were enumerated at his memorial service last Sunday in Stetson Chapel.
The man served as a political science professor, a librarian, the director of academic services, the dean of special services, vice president, acting president and executive director of the L. Lee Stryker Center, all within 36 years of work at K.
“He really was a man for all seasons,” said retired professor Joe Fugate, Chen’s colleague, friend and neighbor.
Fugate said Chen had a reputation for being an inspiring and knowledgeable teacher who opened up students’ conceptions of the world.
Librarian Liz Smith K‘73 studied under Chen in a Chinese politics course.
“He was a wonderful storyteller,” Smith said. “He made class really interesting, and he had many stories of his life in China that made it very personal.”
After she graduated and began working at K as an archivist, Smith would constantly come across his name in the school’s archive library.
“I think he cared a lot about the College,” she said. “He didn’t care about recognition. He just wanted to get things done.”
According to the memorial pamphlet, this humble ambition characterized Chen’s entire life. In addition to his numerous roles at K, Chen worked on his family’s farm in China and served as a tax collector, medic, newspaper proofreader, Chinese army lieutenant and U.S. army translator.
Chen’s legacy lives on at K in the Heyl and arts scholarships he helped create, and in the memories of current and past K faculty and staff who filled Stetson on Sept. 23.
At the memorial service, Fugate read a eulogy for Chen.
“Over the more than six decades that he spent as an esteemed member of this community and the Kalamazoo College family,” read Fugate, “he touched many lives as a teacher, administrator, adviser, counselor and cherished and loyal friend.”