Three Spanish professors are retiring after each teaching at the college for more than 30 years. Kevin Teegarden, Carmen Wyatt-Hayes, and Sandra Puvogel are finishing their last semester of teaching, and will retire at the end of the school year.
A Fort Wayne, Indiana native Teegarden didn’t get involved with Spanish until he was in high school. In ninth grade, Teegarden fell in love with the Hispanic culture and language, and spent a summer in Mexico.
“I thought my lifelong goal was to work in a bookstore,” Teegarden said. “But after I graduated, I couldn’t find a job in a bookstore.”
Instead, Teegarden continued his education at Indiana University, and went on to get his master’s and Ph.D. in Spanish, and studied abroad in Madrid and Barcelona.
“All those experiences in Spain taught me about the Spanish speaking world, and piqued my interest in it,” Teegarden said. “I’m still fascinated by it today.”
In 1991, he found Hillsdale College. Teegarden wanted to teach at a small institution so he could focus on teaching, rather than writing or publishing.
Though he’s not a native speaker, manys have noticed that he picked up an accent.
“I’ve been told I have an accent,” Teegarden said. “And the reason I think people might say that is because I was married to another Spanish professor here — who’s passed away — for 25 years. And we spoke Spanish all the time at home. She was from Puerto Rico, so Spanish was her first language.”
One of the highlights of teaching a language is getting to see a student’s progress, Teegarden said.
“When I teach the Don Quixote seminar, when I see they’re actually reading it and getting it and they’re understanding some of the subtleties of the language or some of the literary techniques — that’s satisfying,” he said.
Wyatt-Hayes spent her whole life in between Costa Rica, her mother’s homeland, and Missouri, where her father was from. Her parents would get homesick for each place, and move back and forth. Wyatt-Hayes studied Spanish and French at Notre Dame College in California, and went on to get her doctorate at Stanford University. Between California’s expensive cost of living and fast-paced lifestyle, she went looking for something more like home, and in 1989, she came toHillsdale.
For 31 years, she’s taught classes ranging from Spanish 101 to 400-level seminars she designed herself. Her favorite seminar was one called “Entre Dios y el hombre,” which means “Between God and Man.”
“I love the liberal arts education, and I love that I can teach a class with a title, ‘Between God and Man,’ and that students are eager to take it,” she said.
Aside from looking forward to more leisure time, Wyatt-Hayes said she will miss interacting with students.
“I would have students write questions for each class based on the literature,” Wyatt-Hayes said. “And sometimes their questions were so good that they helped me understand an aspect of the work of literature that I hadn’t before.”
Years before she began her 34-year teaching career at Hillsdale, and two years before she ever took a Spanish class, Puvogel was studying French in high school.
“It was sort of the luck of the draw. I thought, ‘Well, I think I’ll try Spanish.’ And that’s kind of what decided the trajectory of my professional life,” Puvogel said. “It wasn’t really a conscious decision. But it turned out to be a wonderful decision.”
After attending Central Michigan University for her undergraduate degree and Michigan State University for graduate school, Puvogel lectured part time at the University of Michigan while finishing her dissertation.
Once she had her Ph.D., Puvogel began searching for a full-time job at a small school in Michigan, where she could stay close to her family. She joined Hillsdale’s Spanish department in 1987.
Puvogel said she loves seeing her students’ skill progress over several years.
“It’s quite a challenge to jump right into a language in college,” Puvogel said. “It’s been wonderful to be part of that challenge and to see how much students can learn.”
Having colleagues who support each other in the classroom and in life, and a student community to learn and interact with has been more than she could have ever hoped for, she said.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the students here at Hillsdale,” Puvogel said. “What I admire most about Hillsdale College students is that they are willing to work hard, and I see a joy in learning in them that I just find so admirable.”
As Wyatt-Hayes heads into retirement, she is first and foremost looking forward to not rushing in the morning. She is excited to paint, garden, keep up with family, travel a little bit, and even do part of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage leading to St. James the Great cathedral in Galicia, Spain.
“It’s such an ancient thing,” Wyatt-Hayes said. “That was something of tremendous spiritual importance to people of the Middle Ages, and I think people still find it of spiritual importance.”
Teegarden is excited to have the freedom to travel, read, and write more in his free time.
“I’ve mostly been limited to traveling in the summer,” Teegarden said. “But there’s sunshine over 300 days of the year in Spain.”
Puvogel plans to travel and spend time with her family, especially her 1‑year-old and 7‑month-old grand-nephews. After devoting so much time to the college, she also wants to take time to give to the city of Hillsdale’s community.
“It has been a joy to work with the students at Hillsdale,” Puvogel said. “I will never forget that.”
Senior Eliza Miller, a Spanish major and member of the Spanish honorary, said she’s sad for students who won’t be able to experience Teegarden, Wyatt-Hayes, or Puvogel’s classes.
“All the Spanish professors are really personable, and they really care,” Miller said. “I can’t really imagine a Spanish department without those three. We will definitely miss them.”