English professor Napierkowski bids UCCS farewell after 49 years

     After nearly half a century, renowned English professor Thomas Napierkowski will retire from UCCS at the end of this semester. 

     “I’ve been working at UCCS since 1973, which means this is the end of my 49th year here at UCCS. I got here a few years after the campus was founded, [and] for almost the first decade, certainly the first half decade or so, not a whole lot changed. Since then, enormous changes have occurred,” Napierkowski said. “[I wasn’t] here day one, but shortly thereafter, and it’s been a great ride.” 

     Hired as the university’s expert in medieval English, Napierkowski has taught a variety of classes pertaining to the subject.  

     “I was hired at UCCS to be the medievalist in the English department. I regularly teach courses in the intro on Chaucer. I also teach courses in the early part of the survey of British literature, I teach the history of the English language, [and] various courses that generally focus on early stages of English literature,” he said.  

     Although his passion is teaching deep-dive classes of English history, Napierkowski also takes pride and joy from teaching core and basic courses as well.  

     “[Although] those are passionate areas for me, I would also add that I have enjoyed teaching intro courses,” he said. “It’s also exciting for me to try to introduce students to the study of studying and enjoyment of literature. My specialty [is] the medieval courses in the history of the English language but I enjoy the intro courses as well.”  

     Being a teacher for so long, Napierkowski has had the privilege of seeing students enter as freshmen, take his classes, graduate and go on to live their lives. Several times throughout his career, he has met with students he taught up to 50 years ago.  

Thomas Napierkowski an English professor at UCCS. Headshot courtesy of english.uccs.edu. Photo of Columbine Hall by Meghan Germain. 

     “There is a special joy in encountering a student as a freshman and then seeing that student move up into the sophomore, then junior, then senior ranks and take additional courses,” he said.  

     Some students of his were older than he was when he began teaching. Napierkowski shared a story about one such former student. “I had an email from a student who is now 95 years old, who took my course in the ’70s and who later, as a retired person, came to my courses as a listening-in student. It was a particular delight to visit with her,” he said.  

     Napierkowski has two things he will miss post-retirement. “There is few joys in life that are better than the feeling one has walking out of a class in which everything is going really well. When what the teacher had hoped would happen, has happened, and when, in which, a classroom in which the students have been very receptive, walking out of a class like that [is a] very special joy,” he said.  

     “I feel that I have a special link to UCCS students because I feel [like I came] from a similar background. I was a first generation college student, I had to work before [and as] I went to school. I see, in a lot of my students, that [experience] is central to their experiences, and it [makes] my commitment to them even stronger,” he said.  

     Although Napierkowski has decided to retire, he plans on continuing to indulge in his passions by continuing research and writing in English history.  

     “After I retire, I’m going to continue to do much of what I’m doing now. I will continue to do some writing and some research. I’ll give some papers, and I will probably do those sorts of things on a slightly more relaxed schedule and fit in more leisure. I must also say I hope here or there I will still do some teaching,” he said.