The Unfinished Steps of Professor Filitsa Mullen

Beloved Professor Filitsa Mullen, “a true personification of knowledge, creativity, and love for the written word,” as described by Slavica Spasojevic – Talevska, her former student at the American College of Thessaloniki, passed away in June 2017. On Sep. 20, AUBG professors and students gathered to celebrate her life and retell the story of her multidimensional being through their memories.

Prof. William Clark opening the Memorial with a prayer; Photo Courtesy of Svetlozar Apostolov

Professor Filitsa Mullen was an assistant professor writing and literature at AUBG. Since 2004, when she first joined the AUBG faculty, she has served as a student adviser, chair of the Department of Arts, Languages, and Literature, chair of the Faculty Assembly, co-chair of the NEASC Self-Study Committee, and coordinator of the Writing Center.

“I am glad to have known Filitsa both as a colleague and as a friend,” shared Maia Parmakova, Advising Center Director and Adjunct Faculty, with the guests of the memorial in a written note.“In both accounts, I remember how her eyes would lighten up whenever she talked about her work with students, her family and friends.  Whenever I sought her support to serve as a first year Faculty Adviser, conduct a workshop as part of our University and Life Skills series, or plan together our tutor programs, she would say: “Yes, I would love to do it! Count on me!”

Maia Parmakova for AUBG Daily; Personal Archive

Born in Germany and raised in Greece, Prof. Filitsa Mullen ended up doing her master degree in the U.S., Ohio. Later on, she relocated to Greece to work in the American College of Thessaloniki before moving on to AUBG. Her field of study was Old English literature, but the spectrum of her teaching at AUBG was much broader, incorporating her multicultural background. She taught Exposition, Introduction to Literature, Balkan Literature, British Romanticism and Chaucer. She strove to expose the AUBG students to a variety of literary periods, authors and writing styles.

“As a teacher she was a natural,” commented Prof. Sean Homer, Professor in Writing and Literature at AUBG. “She made it look so easy. She talked with such a fluency about literature. She could fill a course on anything. Not only that her Chaucer course was always oversubscribed but students would come for extra classes.”

Prof. Filitsa Mullen teaching Exposition to first-year students:

“I had the privilege to attend one of her Chaucer classes in literature for the purpose of writing a peer review,” Marcus Wien, Professor in History at AUBG, shared during the memorial. “And I remember how I concluded my peer review letter: ‘Professor Filitsa Mullen is certainly one of the most gifted teachers I’ve ever met at AUBG.’ And I have nothing to add nor to take away from this.”

Professor Filitsa Mullen was an inspiration for her students, as well. She was dedicated to spending time with them outside her classes, initiating speech events on various topics, and activities which would give students the opportunity to share their opinion.

“There are some brilliant teachers at AUBG,” said Ivaylo Gatev, a fourth-year student at AUBG, “but Prof. Filitsa Mullen was never a teacher, she was a mentor, who would always teach outside the class. She opened a door in me which cannot be closed.”

Apart from her active participation in the AUBG professional environment, Professor Filitsa Mullen was also a gifted writer. Her poetic journal “Prophetikon”, consisting of 33 short poems, was her first and last published work.

Prof. Vladimir Levchev, a Bulgarian poet and an associate professor at AUBG, read a few of the poems, included in “Prophetikon”, during the memorial.

“Filitsa was not only a great person and a great teacher, she was a unique poet, as well. “Prophetikon” is an evidence for that. Her poems, like real prophecies, describe another time and another place. They are not realized visions for the country of spirit where the real poets live,” he explained.

There was much more writing that Prof. Filitsa Mullen had started and was planning to do.

“When I was on a sabbatical last spring,” she shared with AUBG Daily in 2015, “I researched and wrote the first rough draft of a play, and I want to continue, but now when I have all of my responsibilities here I cannot really work on it very much. I also started another collection of poems and I want this time to be a 100 poems.”

According to Prof. Michael Cohen, she wanted to write a novel and a children’s book, as well.

“It’s such a misfortune Filitsa was not given the chance to do all of this writing,” said Cohen. “But I’m happy she left us this poetry book. I was simply blown away by it.”

Prof .Filitsa Mullen during the presentation of “Prophetikon” at AUBG in January 2015.

Prof. Filitsa Mullen led a courageous battle with cancer for several months. Although the disease finally prevailed, she astonished all of her students and colleagues with her undying energy and passion for life.

“She was a fighter,” wrote Arlinda Osmanoviq, a second-year student at AUBG, in a letter. “She fought (…) until the very last day. Nobody knew what was going on because her strength and passion made her look great even when she was in pain. Even though she was my professor for only two months I could write a lot about her. (…) I loved her spirit.”

The Memorial for Prof. Filitsa Mullen got to an end with a reception during which the guests could sample some of her original recipes and take small pouches full of her favorite flower seeds. It was a quiet end of an event redolent of a tremendous life. As for Prof. Filitsa Mullen,

“In her living words Filitsa’s journey into the mysteries of existence continues. For, as she well knew,

The unfinished steps go up and turn higher and higher…” (Prof. Alexander Shurbanov, poet, translator and literature professor at Sofia University).

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