Toast Offered by President Carol Christ
It is my particular pleasure
to toast Malgorzata Pfabe on the occasion of her retirement.
Malgorzata was educated in her native Poland, at the University
of Warsaw, and then at the Institute for Nuclear Research,
also in Warsaw, where she began her teaching career after
serving as a research fellow at Munich’s Technical
University. Then R.P.I. recruited her to come to the United
States, and four years later Smith hired her, where she has
served on the faculty since 1982. Now Sophia Smith Professor
of Physics, she is an expert in theoretical nuclear physics,
more specifically and most recently the properties of nuclear
matter. She is the author of over 100 published papers, professional
abstracts, and conference proceedings. She has collaborated
with theoretical physicists in laboratories in Italy, Germany,
and the United States. She was elected a fellow of the American
Physical Society in 1989 and received the Maria Sklodowska-Curie
Science Award in 1995.
Malgorzata is a beloved teacher.
She has twice won the Smith College Teaching Award, and she
has received the Honored Professor Award, but these honors
give far too dry a sense of what she gives her students.
Her students love her, as a teacher, a mentor, and a friend—almost a mother.
A colleague has shared some remarkable stories of how Malgorzata
has touched her students. Vasanthi, a student from Sri Lanka,
faced some difficult health problems in her first year at
Smith, and her parents were too far away and unable to visit.
Malgorzata accompanied Vasanthi to the hospital, signed all
the necessary paperwork, stayed with her through her surgery
and kept constant touch with her parents through all this.
Vasanthi is now a top executive in Apple and very recently
a proud mother of twins. Another student from Greece (another
star student), now an assistant professor at Emory, cannot
speak about Malgorzata without being emotionally moved. In
yet another instance, a student was close to tears in Malgorzata’s
office, having missed her GRE s and at a loss as to how to
get to a distant center to take the exam on time. Malgorzata
handed the keys to her car and sent the student on her way!
These stories demonstrate Malgorzata’s great warmth and sense
of care, A colleague writes, “She has the capacity to make
you feel at ease, listen to you and give you thoughtful feedback.
Once you share a problem with Malgorzata, you can be sure
that the problem is hers as well. I have never heard her
say that she is too busy or too exhausted, never heard her
say anything but a cheery ‘wonderful’ in response to the
question ‘How are you?’”
Malgorzata has served on virtually
every committee at the college. She seems to specialize in
search committees: she has been a member of two search committees
for the Dean of Religious Life, two search committees for
the Director of the Picker Engineering Program, and two presidential
search committees. But perhaps her most significant contribution
to the college has been her role in advocating for engineering
at Smith and in proposing and planning what became the Picker
I honestly don’t know how Malgorzata finds the time to do everything
she does. I have been impressed—indeed awed—by the number of college events she
and Jurek attend. I never go to a liberal arts lunch, a lecture, a play, and
concert, but I don’t see them there—engaged in the community, and in the full
range of intellectual and creative endeavor at the college.
According to her
web page, she loves music, dancing, swimming, and hiking.
(Indeed I always see her and her husband take the dance floor
at my fall party.) My favorite picture is the one on the
Physics’ Department’s faculty home page, in which she and her
colleagues are all treading water, with the invitation, come on in, the water’s
fine. Malgorzata loves to travel; she has barely returned from one trip before
she is planning the next. I wish you many happy journeys in your retirement,
and I still look forward to seeing you at all those concerts, talks, and plays,
and, of course, on the dance floor.