In The News: Sharing Stories Rob Fure and Tom Camden ’76, who both retired in June, opened new doors to intellectual discovery for the W&L community.
“When you take a trip with someone, it’s not like a visit to your office on campus,” said Rob Fure, director of the Office of Lifelong Learning, of his 45-year career. “You are having a life experience.”
Fure joined the faculty in 1977 after earning his M.A. and Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of California at Berkeley.
In 1981, he designed an administrative structure for nontraditional education programs and was asked to oversee its implementation by then-president Robert E. R. Huntley ’50, ’57L. In 1982, Fure established the Alumni College, thoughtful and immersive summer programming on campus for W&L alumni and parents. In 1985, he began the W&L Traveller Program, wherein alumni travel the world and learn from W&L faculty along the way.
“Over the years, our program has been distinguished by the level of client service we provide,” Fure said, “and by our collaborative approach to working with faculty in developing our programs both on campus and abroad.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he led Lifelong Learning into new terrain by developing virtual experiences, including online webinars on current issues; “After Class” podcast interviews with faculty; live-streamed talks by Alumni College faculty and distinguished visitors; a virtual book club; and “Sheltering in Place,” a reading list recommended by W&L faculty. “W&L at Home” continues to offer virtual lifelong learning.
W&L is now widely recognized for its robust array of lifelong learning programs, and Fure is consulted regularly by other universities with educational travel programs. He attributes this to a commitment to authentic, lasting relationships.
“Everybody has a story, and you’re giving people a chance to share their stories while you explore the world together,” he said. “And that leads to a kind of affection that you don’t often see in normal university-alumni relations. I’ve made so many friends, and that’s what I will miss most.”
Tom Camden ’76
“Special Collections does not operate in a vacuum,” said Tom Camden ’76, who retired from W&L after 10 years. “Collaborative efforts with other units on campus have yielded greater visibility, as well as increased engage- ment and support.” Camden, who was an associate professor and head of Special Collections and Archives, thinks of both himself and Fure as ambassadors at large for W&L.
A Rockbridge County native who majored in religion and double minored in art history, and sociology and anthropology, Camden also earned an M.L.S. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He served as director of special collections at the Library of Virginia for 12 years before returning to his alma mater.
Over the years, he served on the university’s working group on the history of African Americans at W&L, as co-chair of the Native American and Indigenous Cohort, on the University Museums Committee, and on the Commission on Institutional History and Community.
Camden taught courses and workshops in everything from W&L’s digital culture and information minor to Alumni College. He has also overseen the digitization of the collection. Camden looks forward to traveling and continuing to serve as his class agent.
After beginning his tenure at W&L: “I remember telling some of my colleagues (at the Library of Virginia), ‘I’ve won the lottery.’ And I can say to you that 10 years later, I still feel that way.”