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Greenfield Community College

GCC library honors 2 former English professors

GREENFIELD — Had former Greenfield Community College professors Phyllis Nahman and Gretchen Watson selected other professions, said GCC library director Deborah Chown, they just might have chosen to be librarians.

During a combined five decades as English professors at the college, the two spent many an hour in its library — now named the Nahman-Watson library in their honor.

Nahman, retired now for 11 years, attended a naming ceremony at the library Friday. Watson, who died in 2006, was represented by her husband, James Gardner, and their son Drew.

Nahman played a key role in building a children’s literature section in the library and Watson was one of the first faculty members to push for an information literacy program, said GCC President Bob Pura on Friday.

“New generations of students, faculty and staff will come to the Nahman-Watson Library,” said Chown. “A place that welcomes all, a place of education, exploration and knowledge, a place in which the names of these two women will be forever linked in celebration and tribute.”

Nahman, a Turners Falls native, started at GCC as an adjunct faculty member before joining full time in the early 1970s. She taught English and women’s studies courses for the next three decades until her retirement in 2002. Friends and colleagues described her as a lover of libraries of all kinds.

“Education is a portal to possibility. ... I know that we learned a lot from our students and we had a wonderful time teaching here,” said Nahman, who sat in the front row with her husband and brother.

“I’m deeply honored and deeply humbled that my name stands with Gretchen’s on the library of this college, in whose mission we have always deeply believed,” she said.

Watson joined the faculty in 1985 and taught there until her death in 2006. Over those 20 years, she developed and taught a wide range of courses — including Media and Popular Culture, College Reading Strategies and Latin American Literature. Her colleagues considered her a pioneer in online learning.

“No one would have been more surprised at this honor than she would have been,” said Gardner, her husband.

“Many remember Gretchen for her quick wit and her charming humility,” he said. “For while she took her students and the world very seriously, she never took herself too seriously.”

Nahman and Gardner were each given standing ovations and the two embraced after Gardner spoke.

When the ceremony ended, the two stood near the library’s front windows while friends, family, colleagues and students approached them to say hello and share their memories.

A plaque honoring the two will be installed in the library this summer.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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