Saint Anselm Faculty retires after three decades of commitment

Sam Jette, Copy Editor

At the end of this semester, both Dan Forbes ‘81, director of the Meelia Center for Community Engagement, and Dr. Landis Magnuson, director of the Abbey Players, will retire. 

Forbes has spent his 35 years at Saint Anselm College creating opportunities for students to take on leadership roles. 

According to Forbes, “if you create the opportunity for people to get involved, they will step up.” In fact, he has structured the Meelia Center around this philosophy. 

When he was asked to first launch the Meelia Center in 1989, he relied on student leaders to get the program running. Then, in 1992, the Center officially launched a student leadership pilot program consisting of 12 students. 

Today, Meelia still relies on student leadership, employing roughly 100 students who coordinate volunteer sites, manage office tasks, and teach local students in Access Academy courses. Forbes recognizes the success of student leaders lies in their ability to inspire a cycle of involvement. Currently, the Center coordinates around 400 student volunteers on a weekly basis. 

“We’ve created opportunities for students to lead, and they do, and those students create opportunities for their peers to engage in the community,” Forbes stated.

The students have always been one of Forbes’ favorite parts of working at Saint Anselm. He is inspired by their growth, from hesitant freshmen who first enter the Meelia Center within their first week of college, to confident seniors with heightened communication and project management skills.

In addition to directing the Meelia Center, Forbes was initially hired as a full time faculty member in 1985. He taught social work, and developed five courses during his first year as a professor: Therapeutic Interviewing I and II, Social Welfare, Social Services, and Introduction to Sociology. 

Despite the long hours and heavy workload of this undertaking, Forbes remarked, “I had the passion to do it.”

Forbes is no stranger to hard work. He taught full time for four years, and then continued to teach while simultaneously creating the Meelia Center. He continued as a social work and sociology professor while running Meelia for 20 years. 

“I always felt like I was doing social work,” he reflected. 

As Forbes enters his final semester as Meelia Director, he is confident in the direction that both the Center, and the college, are headed. It is his hope that Nicole Lora, Meelia’s current Associate Director, will take his place. 

Forbes is not saying goodbye to Saint Anselm completely, however. He will remain a part-time employee next year. While his exact duties are not concrete, he hopes to work on scholarship assistance and resource development, particularly involving the Access Academy program. 

“It’s been an absolute gift for me to work here,” concluded Forbes, “it’s been a dream job.”

Landis Magnuson, director of the Abbey Players and English and Fine Arts professor, will also retire at the end of the spring 2020 semester. 

Dr. Magnuson has spent the last 32 years shuffling through various roles on campus. He served as chair of the English department for six years, as well as the Fine Arts department for a semester, while teaching in both of these departments. 

However, one position always stayed constant for Magnuson throughout his 32 years on the hilltop; he has always been the Director of the Abbey Players. 

As director, Magnuson has overseen countless Abbey Players productions on the Dana Center stage. His most memorable experience has been working with Abbey alumni and current students to produce plays which he calls “celebrations highlighting the proud history of the Players.” These plays typically coincide with a special anniversary for the Players. 

Magnuson considers himself lucky to have experienced the Abbey Players’ 50th, 60th, and 70th anniversary celebrations. 

He explains, “It has been such a thrill at these milestones to welcome back Players to the Hilltop to reconnect and remember. As we say: Once an Abbey, Always an Abbey!” 

As his time at Saint Anselm comes to an end, Magnuson will miss the daily work with student directors, and the rest of the Abbey Players. He will also miss working with fellow theater professionals, many of whom are Abbey alumni whom he hired himself. 

“That very fact gives me no end of joy and pride,” said Magnuson. 

In terms of future plans, Magnuson will  travel the world with his wife, Kathy. They have hopes of travelling to Sweden to continue his research there, and to visit the area his grandfather lived before emigrating to the United States. The couple also looks forward to travelling to destinations within the country, such as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. 

The Saint Anselm community wishes both Forbes and Magnuson the best of luck in their future endeavors, and thanks them for over three decades of commitment to the college.