Apeiron, an event that contributes to students’ scholarly growth

Stephanie Cannon Abbie Stuart

One hundred and fifty years ago, Washburn University was a college founded under a different name, but Shaun Schmidt, professor of Chemistry, asserts that these changes haven’t changed the goal of the university to constantly improve upon the quality of education offered to its students.

“Even through all the changes that have happened over the years, we’re still working toward that scholarly growth,” Schmidt said. 

One of the ways Washburn works toward scholarly work is through Apeiron.  Apeiron was originally developed fifteen years ago by a group of faculty who wanted to give students a place where they could share their academic achievements.  It was originally a forum where students could present research, but it has changed over the years.

“Today we’ve got projects that are traditional scholarship research, some outstanding fine arts creative activities that we’ve seen, but also we’re going to have projects in which scholarship has been applied to community service, leadership development and other projects in worldwide experience’s are being brought to our campus,” Schmidt said.

One change that occurred in 2009 was the introduction of the “Last Lecture” series to Apeiron. 

Bill Roach, professor emeritus of the Washburn University School of Business, performed as a speaker for Apeiron’s “Last Lecture” series on Friday, Apr. 24th, in support of the Washburn School of Business Clubs and Organizations Fund.

In his lecture, “Teachers Who Made a Difference in My Life”, Roach talked about the importance of different teachers at different stages of his life, but he also gave credit to computers as part of his life-long learning process.

“I volunteer for radio things and I was doing some programming of the radio they have at Lawrence Memorial and I downloaded a Youtube video,” Roach said. “I watched a particular segment of this Youtube video more than two-dozen times.  Two-dozen. That’s 24. That’s a lot of times. So picture a classroom situation where a student asks you the same question 24 times-’oh God, please stop’.”

He also spoke of the computer as a coach that helps him with the impersonal nature of its teaching style.

“It’s not like a personal coach who sometimes says, ‘What did you do that for, you idiot?’” said Roach.

Other teachers of importance in his life included his mother, Mary Margaret Roach.

“The first one I’ll mention is my mother. Unfortunately, she didn’t teach me to share or play well with others, though it was on her list. What she did have was a tremendous sense of curiosity. So she was engaged with a lot of things and that was really amazing,” Roach said.

In Roach’s early life, he was taken out of the regular school system because of health problems. He spoke highly of a former teacher, Mrs. Spears, who came to his house twice a week and taught him even though he couldn’t attend a normal classroom setting. She encouraged him in different aspects of interest he had even though they may have been as out of the ordinary as reading a book that inspired him to want to try his hand at churning butter.

When Roach had left the school system he had been at normal grade level, compared to the kids around him, but he says that when he reentered the school system he was five levels ahead in reading and more than one grade level ahead in math thanks to Mrs. Spear’s dedication to his schooling. He remarked that he didn’t feel he would have been as successful in his early education if not for her help.

George Pólya’s “How to Solve it” also came in handy in his life as it taught him techniques for how to think about things and solve problems.

Sister Michael Joseph helped him get through the day. His experience with grade school teachers was that there are those who are okay with little boys and there are those who aren’t as okay with little boys and she helped him make the adjustment back into a regular school setting.

His dissertation chair, Roger Wright, was more engaged with students than most professors and advised Roach while he was writing his dissertation. Even though his engagement with students wasn’t expected, necessary or helped with his salary, Wright continued to help his students and Roach thanked him the only way he could by including him as co-author on a paper.

“It turns out that that paper is one of the best things on Roger’s resume, he very modestly said. It’s a paper that’s quoted in the journal of the royal society, so it’s nice paper,” Roach said while laughing.

While there were many others Roach said he could talk about, those were the teachers that were chosen for his lecture.

Through his life, Bill Roach earned a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame, a master’s in business administration from Northwestern and his doctorate from the University of Michigan.

He joined Washburn in 1983 in field management and while at Washburn he has served on many university and school of business committees, including the faculty senate, and he was also the chair of the Washburn University School of Business Faculty. He’s had lifetime interests in fairness and equality and has been the faculty advisor to Project Equal and Project Unity.

His activities today include axillary communications for Douglas County. He’s a volunteer with the amateur radio club and at the Lawrence hospital. He studies Latin and has taken summer seminars in various parts of the country.

“I think I should explain that I have a geek hat trick; I do actuarial science, I do Medieval Latin, I do hamradio. I am very in touch with my inner geek. I’m out and I’m proud,” said Roach, in his lecture.

In his free time, Roach works on a book he believes will be published online. It will be a translation of an 1861 German actuarial paper.

Though he spoke of past teachers and how they influenced his life, Roach included his time at Washburn as one of his influences

“I’m proud to be an Ichabod,” Roach told the Washburn Review.

“Washburn has been a great place for me to be; an absolutely great place in terms of service activities, teaching, research. It was absolutely the best place in the world for me and so I’m very grateful for the time I’ve had at Washburn.”

“Names have changed, buildings have come and gone; probably more buildings coming. Through all of this that shared vision really hasn’t changed,” Schmidt, Roach and Apeiron attest.

Contributed to by Abbie Stuart