By Maggie LaFleur
Dr. David Eakin has been a teacher at Eastern for about 19 years, but not many people know him by this name. He is more widely known to the faculty and student body as “Dr. Dave.”Dr. Dave commutes to Eastern each day from Frankfort, where he lives with his infamous wife of 43 years, Darlene. Students get to know Dr. Dave’s love for Darlene during his introductory biology courses and higher-level biology courses. He also teaches an honors reading course.
“In all honesty, my favorite place on campus is in my classroom in Grise [auditorium],” he said. “The thing that I love the most and the only reason I’m here at Eastern is teaching. If I could not teach, I would not be here. It’s that simple.”
Dr. Dave began at Eastern as a part-time teacher in 1991. At the height of his part-time work he was teaching seven courses for three schools in five different locations between Manchester and Cincinnati. He helped Cincinnati’s Bible College and Seminary set up a biology-teaching program. Eastern used to send teachers to prisons through funding provided by Pell grants, and during this time, Dr. Dave taught at five prisons.
“Someplace in there I figured out I liked teaching non-majors and that there was a difference between majors when they came into the classroom and non-majors when they come in a classroom,” Dr. Dave said.
He said biology majors have made a commitment to the profession and to learning the vocabulary, which Dr. Dave calls, “bio-babble.” He said non-majors are constantly wondering what biology has to do with their lives and reality and why they need to know about it.
“I think that’s where the focus has to be for non-majors,” he said.
“While I love teaching all of the other classes that I teach, it is those large classes with lots of non-majors that really intrigue me,” he said.
Dr. Dave said he enjoys his non-major classes because the teaching is mutual; he said he learns from them, as well. He said he considers himself a life-long learner because he constantly wants to learn and know more.
That goal includes the field of biology, and Dr. Dave said that’s what makes it fun year after year.
“I’ve never gone through a semester without learning some new things that I never knew about my own subject,” Dr. Dave said. “Usually once we get the class going, that’s kind of what I think makes it special.”
Charles Woolum, one of Dr. Dave’s former students and the current supervisor of Technology Commons in the Powell building, was inspired by Dr. Dave to pursue teaching after he took his Biology 100 class (a non-majors course).
Woolum said Dr. Dave has a way of making an instant connection with his students. He said when concepts didn’t click with the students, Dr. Dave seemed very aware of it and that’s when he was at his best.
“It was almost as if he could see the entire class’ eyes glaze over and it was as if he was expecting that to happen,” Woolum said. “Almost immediately he made a very off-the-wall, dull joke. It wasn’t that the joke was funny, or delivered with any style, it was that he just stopped and instantaneously drew every single person’s mind back to class.”
Woolum said that reeling classes in is Dr. Dave’s gift for teaching.
“He has an uncanny passion for his students and making sure they understand the message he is trying to deliver,” Woolum said.
Outside of the classroom, Dr. Dave is also a musician. He sings in Eastern’s Concert Chior and has been in Eastern theater productions The Secret Garden and Guys and Dolls. He said he likes his auditorium classes because being on stage feels very natural to him.
“I have ended up becoming a patron of the arts and am just as surprised by it as having become a geek. I never in my life would have thought about myself as a geek,” he said. “Then I turn around and teach an entire semester on water out of a book that’s on nothing but water. That pretty much screams geek.”
Dr. Dave is also a full-time minister of a nondenominational group.
“I see myself as a minister at school in one context which is secular education and helping the young people who are here,” he said. “I also see myself as a minister to the group that I worship with and the people around me who need help understanding some of the issues between science and religion.”
How does a full-time minister and teacher with 500 students find any time to himself? Dr. Dave said when one loves what they do they aren’t really thinking about having time off.
However, when he does find himself with extra time he writes original music on the piano and applies his knowledge of the guitar to the piano. Although he doesn’t read sheet music, he will sometimes create his own version of other songs from artists like Billy Joel.
Through everything he does, Dr. Dave shows a true passion for life and teaching.
“Dr. Dave has been able to maintain a finger on the pulse of the university,” Woolum said. “He has a unique passion for the success of the university and his students. He learns just as much from his students as they do from him and that’s the key to being the ultimate teacher.”
When trying to get to know the man behind the teacher, it’s evident that the man behind the teacher is in fact the same man. Being a teacher and a learner in all aspects of his life is what Dr. Dave is all about.