Mixing music and math

Tegan Johnson

Featured image: Dr. Professor Wells teaches computer science at SPU. Tegan Johnson| The Falcon

As Professor Elaine Weltz looks back on her career, she can see how each of her paths in life have lead her to where she is today.

“In a way, I kind of fell into it,” Weltz said about her time teaching computer science at Seattle Pacific University.

“In the mid-1980s, computer science degrees were still in very short supply,” Weltz said. “It was very new, and they needed someone here [at SPU] to teach for one year. … That was all it was going to be.”

Weltz has taught computer science for 35 years now, something she never would have imagined herself doing when she graduated from SPU, then Seattle Pacific College, with degrees in music theory and music education.

Having grown up playing a variety of instruments including the piano, clarinet and saxophone, Weltz taught junior high band and choir for a year, but she soon realized it “wasn’t really [her] age group.”

“I had thought at one point in time, ‘I would love to be a music professor someplace,’ but that door had closed,” she recalled. “So, I figured that wasn’t something I was going to do.”

After managing a music store in Seattle for a few years, Weltz decided to shift her focus again.

“I decided I didn’t really want to be in retail the rest of my life,” Weltz explained, “but I’d always been fascinated with business machines and point of sale systems and things like that as a little kid. Then I thought, ‘Maybe I should get into computing.’ So I came back to Seattle Pacific and did an additional degree in computer science.”

After finishing her degree, Weltz was offered a one-year teaching contract at SPU. When that finished, Weltz was invited back to teach and manage an evening computer science program. She attributes her managerial experience to this position, and she stayed there for 18 years until the program “had lived its time.”

“I just signed on for a one-year contract that turned out to be longer,” Weltz said. “A whole lot longer!”

Over her unconventional path to professorship, Weltz “learned the truth of, ‘God has a plan for everyone’s life, and we don’t necessarily see the same things He does.’”

“Clearly, God wanted me here [at SPU], because it happened in a very unusual way. It’s not the normal way you get into college teaching,” said Weltz.

While she was at graduate school, Weltz never thought she would become an educator or study computing, much less teach computing to college students. “There wasn’t a discipline of computer science when I went to college for the first time,” Weltz said.

She knows that God has a plan for life, and she says it is interesting to look back to see the road that has lead her to SPU.

“Having it end up that I would be a computer science professor, and I get an opportunity to do it for as long as I have, you really do see that God works things out. … There were all sorts of things that you don’t know how they’re going to tie together.”

Weltz has been able to tie her interests together throughout her time at SPU. She accompanied the Concert Choir for 29 years, and she enjoyed getting to know those students in a different way.

“I got to have a little bit of a different relationship with them because I wasn’t their professor who was grading them,” Weltz said. “I could be Elaine the piano player. … I suspect that those are going to be some of the times that, as I’m sitting and reflecting on my career, those are going to be some of the things that pop into my head.”

Weltz knows her time with the SPU choir will stay with her, as much as she loved teaching computer science.

“I talk about the computer science part a lot because that’s my official gig, but being a part of the choir program. … I think those are probably some of the really special memories.”

Now that Weltz is retiring, she can focus on what she still greatly enjoys. Both her and her husband are retiring this year, and they look forward to going back to their roots: music.

“We are both retiring from our ‘jobs,’ but we’re not retiring from our church gigs,” Weltz said. “What we’re both planning to do with our retirement is … do what we’ve loved for years and have always kind of done on the side.”

Weltz is the pianist/organist and her husband is the music director at the church they attend in Kirkland, Rose Hill Church.

“I want to do a lot with my music. I want to write arrangements, I want to be able to do performing, and just kind of see what kind of opportunities come up that way. ”