After teaching biology at Washburn for 20 years, introducing two new courses and working with hundreds of students, Ron Ash is ready to retire and live with his family in North Carolina.
Ash had many rewarding experiences during the time he spent teaching in the biology department. He saw several changes and improvements while at Washburn, but there is one part of his job that has always been his favorite.
“The interaction with students the is most gratifying of what I’ve done here,” said Ash.
Former and current students and faculty that worked with Ash gathered at his retirement reception Thursday to share memories of the time they spent with him at Washburn.
“He always had a way of making it light hearted, even when we were learning things most people wouldn’t enjoy. He’s probably the only reason I stayed in school,” said Steve Land, a Washburn graduate who studied biology under Ash and drove from Wamego to attend his reception.
In addition to helping students, Ash contributed to the growth of the biology department by starting two new classes. One of the courses, Development in Medicine, covers medicine from a variety of standpoints and looks at its history. The second, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, is a class Ash is more hesitant to discuss.
“That’s always an experience,” said Ash. “It’s sort of like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens in STDs class stays there.”
Ash also enjoyed watching the university change as a whole. He said that when he was first looking for a school to teach at, he was drawn to Washburn because it had the advantages of a bigger school, but was small enough to avoid the problems larger schools may have.
He said Washburn has become an even better school since the time he was hired, and the positive changes are a result of what Jerry Farley, university president, has done while serving as President.
“It has improved in that students take more pride in the school. His leadership is responsible for that. He’s the biggest change in the 20 years,” said Ash. “It was a good school and he made it better.”
After being at Washburn to see all the improvements, Ash had plenty of reason to be convinced that this was the right time to retire and move to his dream retirement spot in North Carolina.
“I’ve always planned to go there. My sons live there with their families, so that closed the door,” said Ash.
Along with his two sons, who are both elementary school teachers in North Carolina, Ash has a daughter who lives in New York. However, his retirement will not just be spent with family. He has already decided that he wants to keep science somewhat involved in his life after moving.
“I met with a church to educate people about evolution. I also want to work toward getting people over the death penalty,” said Ash.
He also plans on returning to Washburn to see the renovated Stoffer Science Hall, which he says will help further the advances of the biology department by giving students improved facilities and lab instruction.
“I’ll keep coming back after I retire to see it and visit friends,” Ash said.