By: MICHELLE MCGRATH ’17
A English professor is leaving a legacy behind when he retires from Pacific Lutheran University. This professor created an Antarctica study away trip that literally put PLU on the map as the first U.S. university to have students studying on all seven continents at once.
Charles Bergman, 67, has decided to retire this year. Bergman said this will be an “appropriate time to say goodbye.” Retirement is a bittersweet feeling for Bergman due to the tremendous impact he has made on the PLU campus.
One of the most important impacts Bergman has made at PLU is his passion for animals and the study away program. Bergman took his students to the Galapagos Islands in 2004 and while studying, he asked his students if anything could be more exciting than what they were studying. The students and Bergman brainstormed and came up with the idea that there is one place that would be more fascinating than the rest. This place is Antarctica.
Through endless amounts of research and hard work, Bergman’s Antarctica dream became a reality. The proposal for the Antarctica trip was announced to the PLU campus in 2004. Students were able to apply and show interest in the trip in 2005. Students chosen for the trip went to Antarctica in 2006. Since 2006, Bergman has taken students on this trip five times. Bergman will go out with a bang going on his last PLU J-term trip to Antarctica in 2017. Bergman described this trip as the “cherry in the cake for study away at PLU.” Students actually come to PLU because of this trip, and it has helped promote the university and the study away program.
Bergman discovered his love for animals in junior high. His teacher asked the class to paint a watercolor painting of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Bergman painted a picture of himself standing behind a fallen tree holding binoculars. In front of the tree was a duck. This watercolor painting brought great meaning to him, and because of this painting, his love for animals was “destined to be,” he said. From his painting, Bergman learned that he wanted to be involved with animals and care for their well-being.
Later in his life, Bergman said he found animals to be infallible guides when it came to his divorce. After his divorce was finalized in 1988, animals helped guide him on a discovery of his self worth. He said he became interested in endangered animals and wanted to help prevent further harm to them.
Tamara Williams, Director of the Wang Center, said, “Professor Bergman is not afraid to take students to places others haven’t been before.” She added that Professor Bergman has a strong belief that animals are just as important as humans and he wants to share that belief with others around him.
Sonja Schaefer, a junior at PLU, who went on his Antarctica J-term trip said this trip was a “really rare opportunity.” She added it is not everyday that someone can visit Antarctica because of the cost of travel. According to antarcticconnection.com cruises can range from $3,600 up to $35,000, while plane fights can cost up to $23,000. Bergman takes students in his J-term course to Argentina and Antarctica for around $11,000 dollars. Schaefer said “Antarctica feels like a foreign planet.” Antarctica is full of wildlife, but lacks people like other continents.
“It was a wirlwind of a journey” Schaefer added.
Along with this major contribution to PLU, Bergman also has other contributions to his credit. Bergman created the first year seminars along with the writing center. During the years 2004-2006 he was the faculty chair. During this time, their was chaos regarding general education requirements. Bergman, along with others, was able to settle the chaos.
Bergman will not be entirely done with PLU after he retires. Bergman has been at PLU long enough to have what is called a phased retirement. A phased retirement is when a professor retires, but is still paid a portion of their salary up to a certain age. The only thing Professor Bergman has to do is give back to the university in some way. Bergman is doing this by taking students on two more J-term trips, one to Uganda and one to Antarctica.
Bergman will always be known for his greatest contributions at PLU and for putting PLU on the map as the first U.S. university to have students studying on all seven continents at once.