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Professor Hedahl retires after ten years at UWRF

April 9, 2009

For the past 10 years, theater professor Gorden Hedahl has called UW-River Falls home.

After becoming the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1998 and serving in that position for seven years, Hedahl taught in the communication studies and theater arts department until he retired this winter.

“Though I had a lot of work and grading, and many challenges as a dean, my time here has been extremely rewarding,” he said.

Hedahl received his bachelors and masters degrees from the University of North Dakota, with his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Before coming to UWRF, he spent 22 years at UW-Whitewater, including serving as vice provost and doing work for the UW System.

“From UW-Whitewater I spent six years at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts,” he said.

During his 10 years at UWRF, Hedahl was active in teaching in study abroad programs in Scotland and the International Traveling Classroom.

“I enjoy when the light bulb goes on for students,” he said. “It’s exciting to watch them discover the wider world and realize that they can navigate their way around a foreign country.”

In addition to teaching, he directed eight plays at the University, including “Telling Tales” which ran last December, and which Hedahl himself developed from stories.

“It’s always fun to start from nothing and create a play,” he said. “Each play has its moments, but the cast members really seemed to enjoy ‘Telling Tales.’”

College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean Brad Caskey served as the emcee for Hedahl’s retirement party on Tuesday and said he has got to know Hedahl well through the years.

“When I took on this job as interim dean he volunteered to come in and talk to me about advice and I’ve sought him out a few times to talk about issues that I had,” Caskey said. “He’s just a great person; very level headed, great sense of humor, very professional and always concerned about others.”

UWRF student Beth Van Kampen was in two plays under the direction of Hedahl; including “Telling Tales”Ñand said his enthusiasm for theater always shone through.

“One thing I always appreciated was his clear passion for what he did,” she said in an e-mail interview. “He was always so excited about the process of building a show, and that feeling rubbed off easily onto his actors.”

Hannah Blake, a UWRF freshman and also a member of “Telling Tales,” said she liked Hedahl’s ever-present smile.

“It made him very comfortable to be around,” she said. “He laughed quite a bit and that made his class more enjoyable.”

Blake said she also appreciated HedahlÕs talents as both a writer and director.

“His material was very interesting and he taught me so much about theater that I didn’t know,” she said. “His style of directing was very good and I was glad to be in such a creative play.”

Hedahl said he will miss many aspects of his life at UWRF, including his students, fellow faculty members and work in the theater.

“For me, it’s really exciting to work with and see the creativity and engagement in topics with students,” he said. “But I’m also really going to miss the theater, as well as my colleagues.”

However, in his retirement, Hedahl said he has no plans of slowing down.

“I plan on staying involved with community things, spending time with family and continuing to travel,” he said. “Of course, I also want to stay involved with theater, but I also have a long list of movies and books to catch up on!”

Admired by his former students and colleagues alike, Hedahl is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

“Gorden was insightful, clever and always so upbeat, no matter the circumstances,” Van Kampen said.

“One thing I really appreciate about Gorden is his willingness to give people chances. He sees more potential in people than they see in themselves, and he has given me and so many others the opportunity to do more than we thought we could.”

Hedahl said he values his time spent at UWRF.

“I’ve been really lucky and blessed to have had such great people in my life,” he said. “I’ve been at three good universities with great faculty and colleagues and really fine students.”

Caskey said Hedahl’s presence on campus and around the River Falls community has been an extremely positive one over the years.

“This place is better off for him having been here,” he said. “That’s the best thing to say about anybody, and he’ll be missed.”