Farewell Dr. Andrew Auge: A Lasting Legacy

“It’s almost like witnessing your own funeral” were the first words uttered by Dr. Andrew (aka ‘Andy’) Auge when asked about his thoughts on his impending retirement in Spring 2022. My name is Coy Pederson, and though I’m not retiring myself, I graduated from the Loras English program on May 21, 2022; and as I reflect upon my own departure from Loras College, I can understand at least how Dr. Auge is feeling at this current juncture in his career. Dr. Andrew Auge graduated from Loras College in 1978, majoring in Biology (audible gasp). In addition to the grueling hours he no doubt had to put in the science lab, Auge also had to contend with his father’s looming presence while studying at Loras. Dr. Thomas Auge, Dr. Andrew Auge’s father, was often praised for being a scholarly tour de force; he was integral in establishing the Black Student Union on campus, and was a prodigious writer in his academic field, history. “I did feel a need to prove myself, be on my best behavior,” said Auge.

“Loras College was probably not my first choice,” Auge continued. “I didn’t really want to go to the same college where my father taught. However, I soon realized that Loras, as it was then and now, is a great liberal arts institution with robust academic programs. I came in as a science guy. I excelled in science so that’s what I majored in,” said Auge. But he fell in love with literature and decided to pursue that path in graduate school. After the conclusion of his undergraduate education, Auge attended the University of Iowa and graduated with a Master’s degree in 1981; he then received his PhD in English literature from Marquette University in 1987, and started teaching at Loras College that same year.

Dr. Andrew Auge is an indispensable part of both Loras College and the English department for many reasons. It would be difficult to find a professor who can teach source material more effectively in a unique and interesting way that stimulates student interest and discussion than Dr. Auge. Dr. Auge is beloved by his colleagues inside and outside the English department. More importantly, though, Dr. Auge is respected and admired by those he impacts the most: his students. Known for his “scholarly look” and his equally “intimidating presence,” Dr. Auge can somehow simultaneously strike fear and reverence into the hearts of his students without ever having to raise his voice. Abi Vito, a current student of Dr. Auge’s said, “Dr. Auge is terrifyingly amazing.” Another student, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “Dr. Auge is the English literature program.”

Dr. Auge came to Loras College with a specialization in 17th and 18th century British literature. What has been great for Dr. Auge is the level of academic freedom he has had a professor at a liberal arts college; in fact, although Dr. Auge has the aforementioned specialization in British literature, he established the Irish Studies program at Loras College and the study abroad component of the minor as well in 2000 at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art and Design + Technology. In 2005, not long after Dr. Auge had established the Ireland program, he organized a Midwest regional for the American Conference of Irish Studies, bringing the world-famous Irish poet Eavan Boland onto the Loras College campus to speak.

Dr. Auge most recently co-edited a book titled, Contemporary Irish Poetry and the Climate Crisis, which looks at the climate crisis through the lens of Irish poetry—past and present—to demonstrate the significant prescience and importance of poetry in the face of potential catastrophe. For Dr. Auge, however, his own sense of personal achievement is not derived from his exemplary scholarship, but rather his personal inroads and connections he’s made with his students: “I’m glad that I published—I thought that was a professor’s job. I don’t want to downplay that because it was important to me. However, it’s always been the relationship experience with my students that have been the most important to me. The goal has always been to let the students say the brilliant things and to come up with innovative interpretations.”

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly caused upheaval in the academic world. It eliminated any in-person-contact, students were forced to learn remotely, and teachers were expected to teach online. When asked about the challenges the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic made on the last few years of Dr. Auge’s teaching, he was astonishingly optimistic about the whole situation: “I was on sabbatical in 2020 in Ireland when the pandemic hit. It looked like every American in Europe was in the Dublin airport. It wasn’t until Fall 2021 when I went back to teaching. Fortunately, the classrooms were big enough where the usual class dynamic could still exist, though our faces were obscured by the masks, so I wasn’t able to recognize anyone after the masks went away. It was really alienating to be on Zoom. I like face-to-face instruction. To answer your question, I don’t think it soured my last few years of teaching at all.”

As a student, it was always comforting to listen to our more experienced professors talk about other notable events in world history and how Loras College and the nation persevered in spite of them, and Dr. Auge was one such professor who did just that. Dr. Auge remembers the horrifying September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Centers in New York and how there was an intense amount of grief, trauma, and uncertainty for the future. “I remember that day vividly,” said Auge, “I asked students in my Literary Criticism class if they wanted class cancelled, and to my surprise, they said ‘no.’ They wanted class to carry on as usual with a moment of silence, I think that’s a testament to the kind of students we have—very brave and caring.”

Now that the pandemic has largely become endemic, Dr. Auge has decided that his time for retirement could not be more appropriate. “I have to say, the changes to the curriculum really hastened my exit; however, I think the restored normality has been a comfort to me and has helped me realize that I won’t be leaving my colleagues in a bind. I always wanted to leave on the best of terms and with high personal standards for myself and in my teaching, and I think that time is now.”

Dr. Auge has no firm plans for his retirement, he does intend on staying in Dubuque and doing some travelling, seeing his kids and extended family, and of course writing in his spare time when he’s not doing other things. I think I can speak for all of Dr. Auge’s students when I say that it has been a true honor and privilege to learn under such an accomplished and well-respected person. Loras College owes you a huge debt of gratitude, Dr. Auge. Congratulations on your retirement!