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Professor's career spent chasing the whale

After a career of collecting student work, one NKU professor has spent years helping students make sense of the tale of "Moby Dick."

in his own words:

quick facts:

  • Name: Robert Wallace
  • Location: Landrum 536
  • Position: Professor of Literature and Arts
  • Most Interesting Part of Office: Moby Dick art collection

Walking into Robert Wallace's office you are taken back by the amount of books that line the wall before you even begin to have a chance at seeing the years worth of student work dedicated to "Moby Dick" lining the rest of the walls.

"My favorite thing about the office is the combination of books and paintings because I teach literature and the arts," Wallace said. "It kind of replicates my unusual imagination, that I like bringing unlike things together, so the office kind of shows that."

Wallace, who has been at NKU since 1972 only started allowing students to do art pieces for assignments in 1997. It was then that he began acquiring them either by purchasing them or by having students donate them to his collection.

"When students do artworks in my classes I often want to acquire some of them to show to future students so they have ideas of what's been done before so I will often offer to buy a work and sometimes a student will give or loan it," Wallace said.

One piece in the corner of his office is on an "extended loan" from a past student and Wallace said that it is even written into his will that it will be returned to her when he passes.

Sitting surrounded by an estimated 1,600 books in his office alone, Wallace says that, to no surprise, his favorite book is "Moby Dick."

"I've taught it since I came in '72 and student responses are so unique to the book," Wallace said. "It's not always easy to read, even the students who resist the book while they read it… when they see how other students have responded and how other artists have responded and the freedom to take the book as you wish, they find a lot of rich stuff in there."

Standing out in the sea of "Moby Dick" themed art is a basketball with signatures scattered across it. It turns out the story behind the basketball is as unique as the tale of "Moby Dick."

Wallace is the author of "Thirteen Women Strong," a book about the struggles of the 2006-07 NKU women's basketball team.

"I had written my book… and while I was revising that book and getting it published the 2008 team won the national title and I had room to write an epilogue at the end of my book about that so they gave me the ball after the season ended," Wallace said.

As for changes to his office, Wallace just wishes he had more space to store all of his books and artwork.

"I'd make it less crowded, but I don't know how to do that really because it's hard to throw away these artworks," Wallace said. "I want to keep them as long as I can."