Department of Philosophy
Issue 3- Winter 2005/6
Don Scherer "Retires"
It would be difficult to know it if you weren't told, but Don Scherer has now acquired the "Emeritus" prefix to his official title of Professor. In other words, he has retired. However, his well-used Cannondale bicycle is still parked in all weathers in its usual spot outside Shatzel Hall almost every day and his booming voice can be heard in the corridors just about as often as it has for the last 38 years. In fact, it would be hard to imagine the philosophy department without them.
Scherer's tenure at Bowling Green coincides with the department's rise from obscurity to national recognition and that change has been in no small part due to his efforts.
After receiving his PhD from Cornell University in 1965, Scherer taught for a brief period at Hobart College in New York, before taking up his position at Bowling Green in 1967. He began to teach environmental ethics in 1971, but at that time, environmental ethics was not recognized as a sub-field within ethics so there was no organized material for such a course. Scherer saw a need here and set about to try to fill it. While doing so, he became aware of a role that philosophers could play in addressing important issues of the day by applying philosophical methodology to them. With a view to this, he applied for and received an NEH grant in 1976 to study the direction of the department's MA program and as a result a decision was made to re-orient the department's program. By this stage, the bulk of the applied undergraduate curriculum had been introduced and in 1979 the department began to teach the MA in Applied Philosophy with approximately 14 faculty involved.
At that time, there were no internships for applied philosophers, so the graduate students were taught the skills to go and find them for themselves. This was done with considerable success and students interned in hospitals, hospices (also virtually unheard of at that time), and studied such issues as the safety of the blood supply and regional land use. One student, Carol Nash, as a result of her internship, even ended up as the first Director of the Wood County Historical Museum.
Due to the graduate program's success, the department received two grants from the state of Ohio in the 1980s, recognizing its excellence and enlarging the budget. In 1990 the department introduced its PhD in Applied Philosophy, which is still unique in the country.
In the meantime, Scherer himself had been pursuing some other interests, including a large amount of work with the Society for Ecological Restoration. In 1999-2000, he spent the year at Santa Clara University, advising Environmental Studies faculty on how to incorporate environmental ethics into their environmental research in such fields as Biology, Anthropology, Political Science, Economics and Environmental Education.
Since retirement, he has spent a lot of time on looking into alternative forms of energy. The photovoltaic panels on the University’s Ice Arena roof are a tangible legacy of Scherer's (and others') efforts. He is the Vice President of Green Energy Ohio and is also chairing its committee to write a business plan for a wind assessment business in Ohio. For the Ohio Board of Regents he has researched the prospects for state universities to become owners of wind turbines, and he is currently talking with groups in nearby counties about further installations.
On top of this, he has not lost touch with students. He last taught in the Fall of 2004, but is currently preparing a seminar for Fall of 2006 on "Sustainability, Disaster and Wisdom" and he keeps weekly appointments with graduate students working with him. Additionally, the University administration has undertaken several initiatives to improve the sustainability of the University because Scherer has arranged for class projects in courses from environmental science and policy to marketing and communications to research how that sustainability could be accomplished.
Scherer's energy seems to be an ever-renewable resource in itself, and the department hopes to continue drawing on it into the future. The only sense of "re-tire" Scherer would seem to have in mind involves a new set of Michelins for his Cannondale.
Don Scherer one or two years ago
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