First Take: Bowing Out Print
Willis Konick
Phot by Mary Levin.
Every teacher reaches an age when it’s no longer wise to be walking around on desks, and for Willis Konick, it’s 77. The famously animated UW professor of Slavic studies, comparative literature, film studies and whatever else happens to be on his mind will retire this June. Konick has almost certainly been at the UW longer than any other member of the faculty or staff. He first came as an undergraduate in the fall of 1947 and has never left. “I didn’t plan to stay here this long,” he says with a chuckle. “Sixty years wasn’t in the plans.” Konick is legendary for his classroom theatrics—high-stepping across desktops, leading students in chants and songs, staging improv drama. He says his favorite classes are the big ones—200 students or more. “I’m a performer.” Needless to say, he’s had the pleasure of performing for multiple generations of Huskies, including multiple generations of Konicks. He taught his own daughters in the ’80s, and now has his grandsons, Jeremy and Devin Konick-Seese, in class. Devin is only a sophomore in high school, but he didn’t want to miss the legendary professor’s final act.