Retiring Faculty

by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney ’10

Photo of Frank Spreng & Dave OttingerCollectively, they have given McKendree 77 years of dedicated service in the classroom. They have been instrumental in laying the foundation and leading the growth of some of the University’s most highly successful programs in the arts and business. More than just dispensers of course curriculum, they have been mentors, inspirers, encouragers, and they have changed the lives of decades of students.

This past May, the University celebrated the retirement of two faculty legends, Professor of Art, Dave Ottinger and Professor of Economics, Dr. Frank Spreng. Each were awarded Professor Emeritus status in a ceremony honoring their impressive achievements and service to the students of McKendree.

When Dave Ottinger joined the McKendree faculty in 1978, he remembers a very different picture of the University than it is today, with the exception of one constant: the close-knit community of people who care.

“In 1978, buildings were boarded up, students were in short supply, and the debt almost equaled the endowment,” he said. “Things certainly looked grim, and yet everyone dug in. Faculty, staff, and administrators helped recruit students, raked leaves, painted doors, and as a result, we became the McKendree family.”

Dave says that level of teamwork is one part of his McKendree experience that he’ll miss the most. In 38 years with the University, he has taught every art course and served on every committee. He oversaw the addition of a darkroom and ceramics studio in Benson wood, and he ensured that each of his students had every opportunity to grow their artistic talents. “The best thing about teaching art was his students, many of whom came from areas where art was not a part of their daily lives,” said retired McKendree English professor Dr. Michele Stacy-Doyle, who spoke at dave's retirement.

Indeed, students were always Dave’s passion, and he still regularly talks to many who graduated more than 30 years ago, even getting to know their spouses and children. Although he taught several students within the same family over the years, one of his most remarkable student relationships is with a grandfather and grandson.

“Jerry Garrett was one of my first students in figure drawing in 1978-80. Years later, I was hosting a student art show for McKendree, and his grandson, Curtis was in the show. He came up and asked if I remembered him. I couldn’t believe that Curtis was his grandson!"

It didn’t take long for Ottinger to form a unique bond with Curtis Wright ’16, and his mother, Yasanne Garrett ’06. Curtis’ asperger’s syndrome created more challenges for him in class than most students have to overcome. “There was something about Curtis I liked,” said Dave. “He had a warm smile. I put off retiring last year because I promised his mom I would do my best to see him through to graduation.”

Dave’s plans for the future involve continuing to produce his own artwork, many pieces of which already reside in public institutions in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Illinois State University. In 2017, his exhibits will be featured in St. Louis, Chicago and New Hampshire. “I look forward to beginning a new career as a working artist and spending time with family, but I will always hold dear the friendships I’ve made at McKendree,” he said.

Frank Spreng has a philosophy he seeks to impart to all his students: if you have a goal, you must be willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen. For Frank, that time was 29 years at McKendree and 50 years overall as a faculty member in higher education.

His efforts resulted in the creation and growth of some of the most popular and effective academic programs at McKendree today.

Frank played a crucial role in growing and shaping the School of Business into what it is today. If there was a need to be filled or an opportunity to reach a new group of students, he worked tirelessly to implement the right solution. President James Dennis lauded him as “an extraordinary leader and a pioneer within the McKendree University Graduate School.” He started the Master of Business Administration program from scratch and led the initiative for online degree programs. He was also responsible for bringing in a national speaker to the School of Business each year through a grant he obtained from the Charles Koch Foundation. In between his 12 years as division chair for the School of Business and 10 years as director of the MBA program, Frank also found time to start up the undergraduate economics and finance major.

In spite of all the ways he altered the face of the business program at McKendree, Frank says he would like most to be remembered for helping students, both while they were students and later as professionals. According to his fellow faculty members, Frank raised the bar for what students in the business program could accomplish. “His greatest contribution is that McKendree students can compete with the best,” said Instructor of Accounting Terese Kasson.

President James Dennis lauded frank as “an extraordinary leader and a pioneer within the McKendree University Graduate School."

In his retirement, Frank plans to spend more time traveling with his wife and enjoying life with his grandchildren. “I also have a stamp collection and model train collection that have been badly neglected,” he said. If you’re on campus, though, odds are you may still see him on his way to class. He still plans to continue teaching one or two business courses in the evening. It’s just what you do when you have a passion for helping others; your work never truly ends.