Celebrating the Career of David Sutton and Welcoming Eric Wallman as Interim Humanities and Foreign Language Dean

By Dani Moritz-Long

It was 1973. Richard Nixon was president, the average price of gas was 38.5 cents a gallon and a young David Sutton spent his days stringing his guitar, riding waves on his surfboard and feeling the wind in his hair on the back of a Harley Sportster. Then, everything changed. A motorcycle wreck left David unable to continue working construction, so David — who wouldn’t have called himself college material — signed up for college courses at Valencia College’s West Campus.

“The first class I ever walked into was a Humanities course,” the now Humanities and Foreign Language dean said. “The rest, as they say, is history.”

That Humanities class was Humanities in a Technological Society. Taught by the former chair of the Humanities department J. Louis Schlegel III, the class blended lecture and discussion — offering a unique opportunity (for the time) for students to engage in dialogue about course topics. It ultimately became the foundation for the Introduction to Humanities course offered today, and it was a pivotal influencer in David’s career as an educator and administrator.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in humanities from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in humanities from Florida State University, the once self-proclaimed sub-par student returned to Valencia College — this time as a humanities professor himself working under none other than J. Louis Schlegel III.

“I didn’t want to teach anywhere else; I wanted to teach here,” David recalled about his reintroduction to the College. “I would never have gone to College and gotten a college degree if it weren’t for Valencia, so I wanted to give back to the College, and I love the environment … Valencia was the place I felt at home.”

As a faculty member, David was deeply involved in Valencia’s mission — always finding opportunities to go above and beyond. Throughout his teaching career, which began at the West Campus and transitioned to the East Campus shortly thereafter, he taught in Valencia’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program (featured in the Valencia College History Book) as well as the Prometheus Project, a project which involved faculty bringing humanities courses to the severely undeserved like the homeless, abused and those enrolled in drug rehabilitation centers.

“It was the ultimate expression of commitment to community,” David explained.

He also partnered with interdisciplinary faculty on other special projects. For example, David worked with the late Ralph Clemente to produce music for a pro-bono film Ralph produced for Project HOPE, an organization that empowers healthcare workers to support the underserved. In fact, that was a project David was so deeply involved in that, while recording music for the project overnight, he completely missed area warnings about an incoming hurricane.

In 2008, David (admittedly somewhat reluctantly at first) channeled his experiences as a faculty member into his work in administration, when former East and Winter Park Campus President Ruth Prather asked him to lead the newly formed Humanities and Foreign Language department, when it officially separated from the Arts and Entertainment division.

Soon, however, his hesitation in trading his title as an academic scholar for an academic dean faded as he discovered new ways to continue his work changing students’ lives. Today, he considers his work as a dean among his greatest career accomplishments and his most impactful work.

“I feel fortunate that I got to be the pioneer,” he said of being the first dean of humanities and foreign language on the East Campus. “I got to be the person who crafted the division and designed what it looks like academically, and I think to some degree ideologically with the help of faculty members who were able to write our first mission statement. I hope I’m remembered for that.”

Of course, this isn’t the only administrative position David has assumed over the years. He also served as interim campus president between Ruth and recently retired Stacey Johnson’s presidencies, and he even served as interim dean of science for a time.

Laughing, David said, these were interesting and eye-opening experiences.

“I had never had a job before where I had to worry about hazardous waste removal,” he joked about his time as the science dean. “It was a completely different assignment in terms of the content and the day-to-day activities you managed.”

All of these experiences over several decades at Valencia College is what makes David’s pending retirement so bittersweet — which is why, he says, while his last official day at Valencia College is Friday, August 30, 2019, we likely haven’t seen the last of David on our campuses. Perhaps he’ll return as a senior faculty fellow; maybe he’ll visit as a guest speaker. But, David says, after he’s spent some time doing a little bit of nothing, catching some fish and strumming his guitar, he’ll be back.

“I believe this chapter has ended, but I don’t think my journey is over,” he said. “Valencia has always been a big part of my life, and I feel in some way it always will be.”

Eric Wallman Assumes the Role of Interim Dean, Humanities and Foreign Language

With David’s retirement, Eric Wallman, professor, humanities, is stepping into the role of interim dean, humanities and foreign language. Like David before him, Eric, too, brings with him a wealth of Valencia College experience, having begun his own Valencia career as a Valencia student.

Today, he enjoys bringing humanities to others as a faculty member and, now, as an administrator.

“My dedication to this field has enriched my life in a variety of ways. It’s taken me to over 40 countries so far and essentially lets me live a very adventure-filled adulthood as well as remain a life-long learner. Even if humanities isn’t a popular major, it has a relevance for all college students. Making sure its relevance is conveyed and understood by students will always be the backbone to anything I do, because at the end of any college graduate’s workday, they need intellectual interests and hobbies that challenge their minds throughout their lives, and humanities shines a light on many of these.”

Throughout his tenure at Valencia, Eric has supported Valencia’s mission and his personal commitment to service in a multitude of roles, including through his work with the National Endowment for the Humanities Institute and Magruder Fellowships.

“We send Area-2 Humanities faculty all over the world to engage with culture and subject matter that they teach in their courses,” he explained. “Helping faculty find ways to apply what they’ve experienced to their classrooms effectively, and in the best formats by which they can impact students with such experiences, gave me a better perspective on the challenges of getting students to grasp the importance of humanities education and its relevance to their education.”

Looking ahead, Eric looks forward to continuing supporting students in his new role and working with other humanities faculty to ensure students have robust and meaningful experiences in their humanities courses.

“The one goal I think matters most, at the moment, is assuring that humanities education is represented well for the 21st century,” he said. “With our various discussions about the future of online education at Valencia, I hope to work with our faculty in building impactful humanities courses in virtual formats.”

1 Comment

  • Brad Fleming said:

    Congratulations !
    My father was Chief of Security at the school, my daughter and myself both attended the school.
    Thanks

    PMWed, 07 Aug 2019 14:45:14 +0000Wed, 07 Aug 2019 14:45:14 +0000pm19,2:45 pm

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