Gregory Poland

Gregory A. Poland '77, M.D.

Alumni Comments

On the Retirement of
Bruce and Norma Criley

Gregory A. Poland '77, M.D.

Retirement is a time for reflection on a race well run.  I myself can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it reminds of the line that “with every step of our lives we enter into the middle of a new story.”  

The Drs. Criley now take a new step and enter into a new story…a new chapter in life. 

Steven Pressfield in his book “Gates of Fire” tells the story of the 300 Spartans about to go into battle against the overwhelming Persian army at Thermopylae.  A captured slave tells the King of Persia what a true king, a true leader is:

“I will tell His Majesty what a king is.  A king does not command his men’s loyalty through fear nor purchase it with gold; he earns their love by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake.  That which comprises the harshest burden, a king lifts first and sets down last.  A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them.  He serves them, not they him.”

And while Pressfield was talking about a leader’s conduct during war, it is not a big stretch to see Bruce Criley in those same comments as applied to the 35 years he has spent teaching, mentoring, and administering a department that played so fundamental role in each of our intellectual development and careers over the decades.  Norma told me that many nights, weekends, and vacations were spent creating the letters of recommendation to our post-baccalaureate schools. To many of us, Wesleyan and the Biology department WAS Bruce Criley.  And the duo of Dr. Bruce Criley and Dr. Wendell Hess was an unbeatable combination!

How to articulate what a master teacher is.  William Arthur Ward said it this way: 

“The mediocre teacher tells.

The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates.

But the great teacher inspires.

We, your students over more than the 3 decades owe you both a debt of gratitude.  You have inspired us.  You demonstrated daily the skills of master teachers and professors.  You gave us the tools, the knowledge, and the critical thinking and discernment skills that guaranteed our collective successes.

For me, I recall my first meeting with Dr. Criley.  I was a rising senior in high school visiting Wesleyan with my mom during the summer.  We met in your office and while we were talking I became aware of the largest dog I have ever seen in my life – an Irish wolfhound.  It was huge!  I have never forgotten that day.

I recall with gratitude the optimistic and joyful spirit both of you brought to campus every day.  The “tell it like it is” honesty with which you interacted with us.  The masterful ability to lecture without notes and never miss an important point.  The incredible efforts you made on our behalf in writing detailed and thoughtful letters to our graduate, medical, dental, pharmacy, and other schools.

Pressfield was right when he said that a leader earns the loyalty and love of his subordinates by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake. 

I want to finish with one of my favorite poems.  It was written by Ray Carver.  Ironically it was the last thing he ever wrote – aptly entitled “Late Fragment”.  In it he expresses a universal truth.  It goes like this: 

“And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on earth.”

Bruce and Norma, have no doubt that the over 100 people assembled here tonight, and the many who could not be here, call you beloved.

Congratulations on your stellar careers and for a race well run to the finish line! 

Thank-you for your many tireless efforts on our behalf. 

Godspeed and God Bless to you both.