Prof. Schachterle Celebrates 50 Years of Service to WPI

Helped Start Global Projects Program Pathway to The Global School
January 29, 2021

Fifty years ago, when Professor of Literature Lance Schachterle set foot on campus, little did he know that one of the programs he’d spearhead would lay the foundation for what would become the cornerstone of a WPI undergraduate education: the Global Projects Program.  

WPI recently honored Schachterle for 50 years of service to the university. Among his roles were co-director, liberal arts and engineering; chair, interdisciplinary studies division, and director, London Project Center (1985-94); assistant dean for academic initiatives (1993-96); assistant provost for academic affairs (1996-2002); and associate provost for academic affairs (2002-09).

“WPI has enabled my career as a teacher, scholar, and program leader. I continue to enjoy my contacts with students whose ideas and opinions always enrich my approach to what I am teaching,” says Schachterle, 76. “When I started in 1970, I thought WPI would be a temporary job before leaving for a liberal arts college or research university. Advising early Interactive Qualifying Projects (IQPs) was a great way of bringing the humanities and science/technology together, and I soon made friends among students and faculty. Two of my students in the 1970s are still friends and colleagues—John Goulet and Rick Vaz.”

The foundation for WPI’s Global Projects Program extends back to when Schachterle, while working in the Provost’s Office in 1972, was tapped to explore an exchange program with the City University of London. He negotiated and directed it for several years. (It became WPI’s London Project Center in 1987.)

“I am so happy to see initiatives I started, like the Global Projects Program, contributing to WPI’s institutional growth and reach,” says Schachterle. This program now lives within The Global School—one of four schools at WPI.

On the local front, Schachterle was a key player in the creation of the Worcester Project Center, helping propose a spot that would bring the benefits of the Global Projects Program to WPI’s home city. He also served as the center’s first director.

“I’ve only known Lance for 32 years, so I can’t really speak to his whole career at WPI,” says Kent Rissmiller, interim dean of The Global School. “But it would be hard to overstate his contribution to the IQP and Global Program. He has been a central figure in the implementation of the WPI Plan, from his early years co-leading the Interdisciplinary Studies Division to his later service for 13 years in the Office of the Provost. Through his teaching, advising, and administrative leadership, he has touched tens of thousands of student and faculty lives in a positive way.”

As for his scholarly work, Schachterle’s expertise includes the works of Charles Dickens and Thomas Pynchon, but his main area of interest is that of James Fenimore Cooper. He has published scholarly works on Cooper’s novels and edited the definitive editions of several of them. “WPI has supported me in my close to 20 years as editor in chief of ‘The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper,’” Schachterle says, appreciatively.

Dealing with the pandemic has been another first for him. In addition to altering how he teaches, COVID-19 has impacted a simple daily pleasure that Schachterle misses: walking to work, which he has done for 50 years. 

“I always lived close enough to campus to walk to work. I liked avoiding a commute and being able to participate in cultural events. Friends on the faculty and grounds crew often would say hello,” Schachterle recounts. “But teaching now online has eliminated that. Walking to campus is one of the things I look forward to most once this pandemic is over.”