Former students, coworkers and IU faculty celebrated IU professor Marty Siegel's retirement with a surprise parade of decorated cars, congratulations and music Friday, the day after his final online class.
Siegel has worked as a professor and administrator at IU since 1991, and went on to serve as the first chair of the Informatics Department. He was the founding director of Human-Computer Interaction Design master’s program.
“I know that for many of his students, he’s more than just a professor,” Doug Bauder, Siegel’s husband and former director of IU’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center, said.
People dropped off presents and cards into a laundry basket, held by a person in a mask, to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Michael Dunn, former Dean of the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, was driving one of the dozen cars that came out to celebrate Siegel.
The parade was organized by one of Siegel’s former students, Susan Coleman, and some of her friends from Informatics who still work with Siegel.
Siegel was still in his home office after his class when he heard the doorbell ring. His husband, Bauder, told him he better come and take a look outside.
“I was totally shocked,” Siegel said.
The two of them watched from their driveway as the cars drove past them and looped around to pass them again. Many of the neighbors in their cul-de-sac came out to wave as well, Siegel said.
“We’re just so hungry for something good to happen,” Siegel said.
Siegel said he considered teaching to be an amazing gift. It was very important to him that he saw his students as people who have struggles and responsibilities outside of his class, though he still held them accountable for their work.
He planned rituals for his different programs to celebrate his students. The day after orientation for first year graduate students in the Human-Computer Interaction Design Master's program, they would follow a bagpipe player through campus until they arrived at the Herman B Wells statue. At the end of their first year, the ritual was recreated with a “rite of passage” where Marty and his students would listen to bagpipe music while they sat in the forest together around a fire sharing their favorite memories of their first year.
Siegel said he did this to prepare them to be mentors to the incoming graduate students for this two-year program. Siegel said he enjoyed preparing all of his students for their next steps, whatever they may be, through these sentimental rituals.
“I wanted to both encourage and inspire them at the same time,” Siegel said.
Bauder said they only began planning the parade on Monday. Originally he and Siegel were planning on going to Indianapolis to pick up a chocolate cake from Shapiro’s Delicatessen, one of Siegel’s favorite restaurants.
Bauder said he sat in on Siegel’s last class and noticed that at the end of the class at least six students said “I love you, Marty.”
Coleman first met Siegel in 2006 when he was the executive associate dean and hired her as his administrative assistant. She said they would often talk about user experience and the role of design in everyday life. One day Siegel asked her when she was going to apply to the Human-Computer Interaction Design master's program.She did applied and completed the program after he encouraged her to do it.
Coleman said at first she laughed, but ended up applying and would not have her dream job today as a program manager at a cyber security company if Siegel had not encouraged her to go back to school.
When she was working as his administrative assistant, she would see students with doubts who were ready to quit school go to Siegel, and after talking with Siegel, they would have hope for their futures.
“He asked if I would like to join him in changing lives,” Coleman said.
When planning the parade, Coleman said she would get bagpipe music there even if it was just her holding a boombox to usher Siegel into the next phase of his life the way he did for her and so many of his other students in the HCI/d graduate program.
“I just want him to know he is so appreciated,” Coleman said.