Professors Announce Retirement

Debela BirruDebela Birru, associate professor of business management, retired this spring. Birru taught at Central for 27 years, during which time he was selected as the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award three times (May 1996, 2007 and 2013). Birru served as economics, accounting and management department chair from 2000-05, 2009-12 and 2013-15. He also advocated for revisions to the business management and international management programs at Central when he arrived at the college. The department created four new focus areas in business management: marketing, finance, business administration and international business.

Walter CannonWalter Cannon, professor of English, retired this spring. Cannon started his journey at Central in 1979 as a professor and director of the Writing Across the Curriculum program. He also served as London program director, instructed K-12 teachers in the Iowa Writing Project and pursued his own creative writing. His poetry chapbook, “The Possible World,” was published in 2013. Cannon also started teaching the Non-Profit Writing course as part of a pilot project with the Council of Independent Colleges. Cannon has been recognized with campus awards and also for national and international workshops and institutes. He was awarded research and development grants for work at the Shakespeare Centre and the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford upon Avon, England.

Richard McGrathRichard McGrath, associate professor of communication studies, retired this spring after dedicating 22 years to the field of communication studies. McGrath taught courses in communication theory, public speaking, persuasion, argumentation, rhetorical and narrative theory and criticism. He also developed courses in environmental communication and communicating spiritual ecology, drawing on his passion for the environment. The development of these courses contributed to sustainability efforts at Central. McGrath also served as an associate editor of the Iowa Journal of Communication.


David PurnellDavid Purnell, associate professor of English, retired in 2015. Purnell spent 13 years teaching the value of linguistics and English-as-a-Second Language. He helped rebuild the ESL curriculum for the education department to teach English to refugees in public schools. Purnell also taught beginning and
intermediate Chinese at points during his time at Central. Purnell served as an interim director for Central’s study abroad program in Hangzhou, China.

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