Exemplars personify profession of teaching
The Arizona Republic
ASU President Michael Crow recently named four newly tenured professors "exemplars," calling them among the finest teacher-scholars at Arizona State University.
Three of the exemplars are Kimberly Updegraff, associate professor of family and human development; Nora Taylor, associate professor of interdisciplinary humanities, and Nikhilesh Chawla, associate professor of chemical and materials engineering.
I recently visited with the fourth, Ileana Orlich. Orlich grew up in communist Romania in the 1950s and '60s. When Ileana was a child, a woman visiting from abroad spent time in her family's home.
"She told me stories of France and the West and freedom," Orlich said. "That is how I realized there was another world out there."
It was a world Orlich said she hungered to know.
"I decided to learn English, to master the language, to better myself," she said. "I decided I could make a better life for myself than I saw around me."
Her English was so good by 1969, when President Richard Nixon visited Romania, Orlich was used as a translator.
A few years later, Orlich met a young man from Arizona traveling in Romania. They married and he brought her to the Valley.
She got a teaching job at a tough west Phoenix high school where she put in 16 years of the kind of dedicated, grueling classroom work that should earn anyone a place in heaven. Certainly it earned Orlich recognition as one of the top teachers in the Phoenix Union High School District.
While she taught high school, she worked on a Ph.D. and taught night classes at ASU. Orlich took a full-time lecturer's job at the university in 1995.
"Ileana has single-handedly created the Romanian program at ASU," school spokeswoman Sarah Auffret said. Orlich has published four scholarly books, 16 scholarly essays and collaborated in translating four volumes of poetry, Auffret said. She has made 35 presentations on Romanian and Western literature in recent years and won the ASASU Centennial Professor Award for her teaching.
Orlich said she has found a real home at ASU. "This is a community of learning here and it's wonderful."