Meet the Faculty - Arts and Letters

Wendy Beavers

Assistant Professor and Chair, Department of History; eLearning Technologist

Abigail Heiniger

Assistant Professor of English


Ph.D., English Literature, Nineteenth-Century, Transatlantic. Wayne State University, 2013
M.A., English Literature, Nineteenth-Century, University of Louisville, 2009
M.A., Humanities, Literature and Art History, University of Louisville, 2008
B.A., Summa Cum Laude, double major Honors English and Humanities, University of Louisville, 2007


In the children’s book The Rope Trick, Lloyd Alexander creates a fantasy world where love is the source of real magic. If there is any magic in teaching, I think it comes from love: loving your audience and loving your subject matter. It is the thread that runs through narratives like What the Best College Teachers Do – it unites different teaching approaches and ignites the classroom. I believe that all the research and scholarship invested in being a college professor does not truly come to life until it is brought into the classroom.

My current book, The Fairy Tale Legacy of Jane Eyre at Home and Abroad: Constructions and Deconstructions of National Identity, led me to design a transhistorical course on women in literature: Literature By and About Women: Discourses on Writing Women. I began the course with excerpts from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. We examined the ways in which these authors set the stage for the revolution in women’s writing in the nineteenth century. The class then moved on to Jane Eyre and her broad body of transatlantic progeny into the present, including post-colonial authors such as Jean Rhys and the recent best selling novel The Thirteenth Tale. Focusing on the specific network of women writers responding to Jane Eyre allowed conversations about community, transatlantic context, and the evolution of ideas since Chaucer, undermining assumptions about both medieval and modern texts. I look forward to teaching on these topics here at Bluefield College.

Crystal Kieloch

Director of QEP; Instructor of English

Thomas Kinney

Associate Professor of History


Ph.D., History, Case Western Reserve University, 1998.
M.A., History, Case Western Reserve University, 1992.
B.A., History, University of Maine, 1990.


At Bluefield College since 2004, Dr. Thomas A. Kinney teaches survey and upper-level courses in U.S. history, Virginia history, the Civil War, historiography and historical methods.  After graduating from the University of Maine he earned advanced degrees in history at Case Western Reserve University.  During graduate school he contributed to The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History and American National Biography and in the course of his doctoral dissertation researched over a hundred nineteenth-century Cleveland businesses.  Adjuncting at several northeast Ohio colleges after graduation, he also published a history of the U.S. wagon and carriage industry, The Carriage Trade: Making Horse-Drawn Vehicles in America (Johns Hopkins, 2004), co-winner of the 2005 Hagley Prize in Business History.  During that time he continued his research on industry and manufacturing while editing a reprint of Knight’s American Mechanical Dictionary, a landmark nineteenth-century reference work.  Here in Bluefield, besides teaching classes, advising students, and serving on faculty committees, Dr. Kinney speaks at college and community functions and has provided historical commentary for the local evening news.  He continues to write for the scholarly and popular history markets and is currently researching the history of the Brewster carriage-making companies of New York.  A firm believer in the value of inspired classroom teaching, he employs everything from voice imitations and historical music to wooden drill muskets and WWII-vintage copies of Time magazine.  As one of his students put it, “the energy and enthusiasm Dr. Kinney shows about his love for history makes all the difference!”

Rebecca McCoy-Reese

Assistant Professor of Theater & Technical Director; Artist in Residence

No Information Provided

Rob Merritt

Professor of English; Dean, College of Arts and Letters; Director, Honors Program


Ph.D., English, University of Kentucky, 1990
M.A., English, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1981
B.A., English, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1974


A native of North Carolina, Rob Merritt came to Bluefield College in 1990, after completing his PhD at the University of Kentucky where he focused on British and American Modernism and completed a dissertation about Ezra Pound and music.  He is interested in the interrelation of the arts, and in his literature classes he often uses examples of music and painting to help explain the stylistic choices made by writers of a given period.

His critical writing includes articles about Pound, Yeats, and Joyce and the book, Early Music and the Aesthetics of Ezra Pound

Dr. Merritt is a poet who has been published in a variety of journals.  He has published two books: Landscape Architect (2006) and The Language of Longing (2012).   In these books, he is interested in the power of place and the continual search for home.  His poems demarcate journeys through West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maine, Oregon, Florida, Spain, Ireland, and China.  His writing often concerns how the sensibilities of Appalachia can engage with other consciousnesses for a global synthesis of growth and acceptance.

About the title of his recent book, he says “The longing is for the longing to continue.  Desire is life.”  He wants students to share his zeal for writing.  He says, “One great pleasure I find in writing is to discover and invent pattern—in this case of my wandering.” Every student has the power to shape his or her life.  Often writing can be a great help.  He is a board member of the National Association for Poetry Therapy.

Dr. Merritt is Director of the Honors Program at Bluefield College and faculty advisor for The Bluestone Review, the college literary magazine he founded in 1992.

Charles Priest

Assistant Professor of Music; Chair, Department of Music; Director, Instrumental Studies, Concert Band, Community Orchestra


Dr. Charles Priest received his D.M.A. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, M.C.M. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and his undergraduate degree from Bryan College. He is an experienced private instructor of trumpet, guitar, and piano. His published works include articles, hymn texts, anthems, and hymn treatments. Dr. Priest has led and participated in music mission trips within the United States and internationally. He previously taught on the faculty of Boyce College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently directs the Concert Band and Community Orchestra. Additionally, Dr. Priest teaches Applied High Brass lessons, Music Theory, and Music Literature. He, his wife, Lenore, and daughter, Katy, reside in Bluefield, Virginia.

Charles Reese

Associate Professor of Theater; Artist In Residence

No Information Provided

Irene Rieger

Assistant Professor of English; Chair, Department of English

No Information Provided

Walter Shroyer

Professor of Art; Chair, Department of Art and Design


M.F.A., Pennsylvania State University
B.F.A., University of Georgia


A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Walter Shroyer came to Bluefield College in 1991. Previously, Shroyer taught at Dekalb College in the Atlanta area and Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Georgia.

Shroyer is the faculty sponsor for the Kappa Pi International Honorary Art Fraternity, the Bluefield College Art Club, and the Bluefield College Outdoor Club.

Shroyer works in several mediums, but ceramics is his first love. In his current ceramic work, he seeks to increase consciousness of the fragility of our environment, employing mosaic-like tree forms that exist at the intersection of man and nature. Using stoneware clay and found objects as his materials, he collapses wheel-thrown vessels, which then become a home to a variety of discarded found objects. Preservation and stewardship of the natural environment is always an important theme in his work. Shroyer also works in Printmaking, Watercolor, Collage, and Oil Painting. His website is

You may purchase his work online or at Heartwood in Abingdon, Virginia and the Appalachian Arts Center in Claypool Hill, Virginia.

Tracey Stout

Associate Professor of Christian Studies; Chair, Department of Christian Studies

Ben Thorburn

Assistant Professor of Music; Director, Vocal Studies


Ph.D., Music History, Yale University, 2012
M.A. and M.Phil., Music History, Yale University, 2008
B.A., Music, University of Rochester, 2005


Dr. Thorburn joined the Bluefield College faculty in the fall of 2012. A native of Massachusetts, he previously taught voice at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Connecticut and was a teaching fellow at Yale University.

Believing strongly in the integration of musical performance with a liberal arts education, Dr. Thorburn teaches music history and appreciation, as well as voice lessons, diction, and vocal pedagogy. He conducts the college’s auditioned choir, Variations, and the Masterworks Chorale. He has also taught in the Bluefield College Honors Program.

As a singer specializing in Baroque music, his experience includes performances with the American Baroque Orchestra and the Yale Baroque Opera Project, with whom he sang the role of Caronte in Monteverdi’s Orfeo. Most recently, he has given song recitals with his wife, harpist Colleen Potter Thorburn, in Virginia, the mid-Atlantic, and the Northeast. His primary voice teachers include Lielle Berman and Jane Günter-McCoy.

Dr. Thorburn’s research focuses on the reception of early and Baroque music, specifically the operas of Claudio Monteverdi, by twentieth-century composers including Vincent d’Indy, Alexander Goehr, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Ernst Krenek. He has presented his work internationally and at national and regional conferences of the American Musicological Society.

Shawn White

Assistant Professor of Christian Studies; Director of Spiritual Formation


Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible, University of Edinburgh, '13
M.A. Theology in Hebrew Bible, Acadia Divinity College, '99
M.Div., Acadia Divinity College, '97
B.Sc. in Biology-Chemistry, University of New Brunswick, '94


Shawn made his way to Bluefield College in 2009 after three years of study in the Ph.D. program at New College, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. A native of Canada, Shawn spent eight years in pastoral ministry (Ordination 1999) as Associate and then Senior Pastor before pursuing doctoral studies. Shawn serves as the faculty representative for Theta Alpha Kappa (a national Religion and Theology Honors Society) and, besides teaching courses in English Bible, also offers instruction in both biblical Greek and Hebrew. Shawn continues to be actively involved in church life while teaching, including serving as interim pastor for churches in transition. Keenly aware that today's church needs leaders who both understand the theological foundations of ministry and the ability to carry on the many tasks of ministry, Shawn blends academic awareness and skill training into every course.

Maria Zalduondo

Associate Professor of Languages; Director, Global Education