Work and memories tie them to WSU

WSU is one of many stops in the careers of some employees. For others, this university and small-town Pullman will forever be home. Such is the case for a handful of faculty members who have followed in the footsteps of their parents, who also were on the faculty at WSU.

“As a kid, you can’t get away with anything in a small town,” remembers Alan McCurdy, professor and scientist with food science and human nutrition. “The whole faculty would know within three hours if someone was in trouble.”

McCurdy came to Pullman in 1946 when his father, Jon, accepted a position in veterinary medicine. 

“My father always had two dogs, an Irish setter and a black Labrador, which he used in class for instruction,” he said. The trio could be spotted everywhere on campus.

“One year, graduate students drew a caricature of them,” he said. “My dad was pictured in an old woody station wagon with two dogs leaning out each window, ears flapping in the wind.”

Alan vividly recalls his father’s other lecture materials.

“When I was a kid, I thought lambs had two heads and cows had holes in their stomachs,” he said. “My dad taught veterinary anatomy, so I was constantly exposed to abnormal examples and fistulated cows.”

McCurdy remembers being awestruck with the insects the veterinarians used to strip bones.

“Once, for a science project in high school, I took a squirrel skull, used the bugs to strip away the tissue and then encased it in plastic. Though he didn’t say it, I’m sure I made my dad proud that day.”

Richard Taflinger, senior instructor of communication, came to WSU when his father, Ancel “Gordon” Taflinger, took a position with business administration in 1954.  

“My family came when the campus was wide open and the student population was maybe 6, 000,” he said.
Martin Stadium was Roger’s Field, a wooden stadium, where Taflinger and his father would watch football games on the bank below the library. 

“It’s hard to imagine now,” he said. “Stadium Way was basically an unpaved dirt road.”

Most faculty members lived in housing on campus.

“We lived on C. Street,” Taflinger said. “Oftentimes, my father would fix his old cars out in the front lawn. Occasionally students would stop by and ask, “How much does it cost to have a professor fix my car?

“My dad would always say, much more than you can afford.” 

Taflinger said that, as far as he knew while growing up, all children’s parents worked at the university.

“We were faculty brats,” he said. “It was a way of life.”

Elsa Kirsten Peters, clinical assistant professor in the College of Sciences, came to Pullman in 1968 when her father, Walfred Peterson, went to work in the political science department.

“Harvest was in full swing when we came to Pullman,” she said. “I remember being so impressed with the corduroy patterns spread across the stubble in the wheat fields.”

She adjusted to Pullman smoothly and enjoyed the university events and speeches her parents took her to. 
“I was the kind of kid who liked that stuff, I imagine,” she said.

Peters enrolled in a couple college courses during her senior year of high school.

“I took my fathers’ political science 101 class and did well,” she said. “I had the advantage of hearing all the sermons and lectures over the dinner table at home.”

Besides her father’s position on campus, Peters credits her mother and a geology 101 class at WSU for her own achievement of a doctorate in geology.

“My mom was just like any other middle-aged woman who finally got to earn a degree,” Peters said. “She took classes very seriously and on family vacations would point out geologic features at Glacier National Park.”

Peters said she is glad she left the area for awhile, but she’s pleased to be back. For all three of these faculty members, Pullman is home.

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