For 25 years, students at Washington & Jefferson College have been experiencing London through the eyes of Richard Easton, who focuses his popular Intersession trip on the city's celebrated theater culture. He takes his student tourists to a dozen stage productions performed by some of the best theatrical groups in the world, in addition to visiting historical landmarks, royal palaces, art galleries and ornate churches.
It is a regular trip that Easton takes with his wife and fellow faculty member, Patricia Easton '74, whom he met at W&J. Easton began teaching at the College in the fall of 1970, the same year the first female students arrived. When his future wife enrolled in 1973 to finish her education, she left quite an impression on the young professor. After her final grades were turned in, he asked her out. "She called me Mr. Easton until about the third date," he joked.
Today, in addition to taking students to London for Intersession, the Eastons collaborate to teach a class on children's literature, a favorite among aspiring writers. "You know, my wife and I are one of the College's happy success stories," he said.
Reflecting on his early years of teaching, it is difficult for Easton to imagine W&J without female students. "In my first semester teaching, I was at the blackboard writing," he said. "I asked a question and when I turned around all of the women had their hands up and all of the men were sitting there looking bored. I thought that it must have been too dark here without the women competing with the men."
Two early female students who took Easton's class on American literature are now distinguished graduates of W&J-one is a top executive at a pharmaceutical company and the other is one of the region's leading radiologists. They remain close friends with Easton, who visits his former students often. "Altogether, the women were a tremendous boost to the College," he said.
Easton, who came to W&J with degrees from Notre Dame University and the University of Virginia, spent a year traveling internationally before settling down in Pittsburgh, where he was born and raised. Yet traveling remains an important part of his life and career. He directs trips for W&J alumni that have taken him to Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France. "My trips are noted for wearing people out," he said. "I always say, rest after!"
Easton applies the same dedication in the classroom. Posted on his door in Davis Hall, his office hours are listed as Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3-5 p.m., and, he writes, "or later." He is willing to spend extra time with his students to assure their understanding of course material or to help them write a challenging paper. "I know I'm not your advisor, but I'd be happy to be your life coach," he once said to a student. "I want to help you get to where you want to be."