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Old Dominion will say farewell to a nationally renowned visionary, Nancy Topping Bazin, at the end of this month. Bazin, an eminent scholar, professor of English and first director of the women's studies program, is retiring after more than 21 years here.

Bazin came to Old Dominion from the University of Pittsburgh where she had coordinated its women's studies program for one year. Previously, in 1973, she founded one of the first women?s studies programs in the United States at Rutgers College of Rutgers University.

When she arrived at Old Dominion, she became the director of the first women's studies program in the commonwealth of Virginia. "This university encouraged faculty creativity in a supportive atmosphere that I greatly appreciated," she recalls.

Bazin served as director of the program until 1985. Under Bazin, the women's studies program progressed from six courses to 26 per year, and it later became the first in the state to offer a minor and a major. Bazin also created a master's degree in women's studies offered through the Institute of Humanities. She went on to chair the English department from 1985-89, before returning to full-time teaching.

During her career Bazin received many honors. In 1994, she was one of 11 college professors in Virginia to be selected for a State Council of Higher Education Outstanding Faculty Award. She was also a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study at Indiana University and a Resident Fellow at the Virginia Foundation's Center for the Humanities.

In 1996, Bazin was honored with the title eminent scholar for outstanding and innovative research. That same year she received the Charles O. and Elisabeth C. Burgess Faculty Research and Creativity Award. Last spring, fund-raising began for the Nancy Topping Bazin Graduate Scholarship in Women's Studies.

In the October 1999 issue of Like Minds, the Friends of Women's Studies' newsletter, former students, colleagues and national scholars praised Bazin for her dedication, teaching and scholarship. Charles Burgess, dean emeritus of the College of Arts and Letters, wrote: "For the past 10 years, Nancy has become a model for the ideal teacher/scholar, and she has done it by taking on new challenges, developing new courses, perusing research tracks relentlessly and setting the highest standard for everything she does."

From New York University, dean and University Professor of English Catharine Stimpson wrote: "As early as 1980, Professor Bazin was describing what a multicultural curriculum might be like and how important it was for an interdependent global society. She has been in the forefront of some of the most important developments in the humanities in the past 20 years or so."

Bazin has been a pioneer in the study of women's writers, women's studies and curriculum transformation. She is one of the leading scholars of the works of Virginia Woolf, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing and black African women writers such as Buchi Emecheta and Bessie Head.

Bazin has published two books, "Virginia Woolf and the Androgynous Vision" and "Conversations with Nadine Gordimer," and more than 40 articles. She was one of the first to recognize the importance of Woolf and Lessing's contributions to literature, and her recognition of Gordimer's merit came years before she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

An article chronicling Bazin's creation of the women's studies program at Rutgers will be included in "The Politics of women's Studies: Testimony from Thirty Founding Mothers," a book to be published in June by the Feminist Press. Bazin is looking forward to "being free to read what she wants to read" and to having time to write. She and her husband also plan to travel. While they are still "young" and energetic, they will "travel first to the places farthest away (like Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii)." Because Bazin is on the Presidential Search and Transition Committee, however, their plans to travel far away will be delayed until fall, she said.

The women's studies department is not only losing its founding director with Bazin's departure but also its longtime program support technician, Gloria Putnam. Putnam will step down this month after 22 years of service.

"Gloria has long been known for her strong commitment to women's studies, and she has provided it with continuity over the years as the directors changed," Bazin said, noting that Putnam has been "a delightful person to have in the office as a first contact for inquiring students."

Bazin added, "She made sure all women's studies events ran smoothly and enjoyably, which is an art."

While working, Putnam earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees from Old Dominion.

This article was posted on: December 21, 1999

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