As we head into our SECOND year of planning for our 50th Reunion it’s even more important to connect with each other. Our ZOOM Reunion in June was amazing and the ‘take away’ was that seeing old friends and getting updates was an antidote for the chaotic times we are going through.
1. What do you want people to know about you?
2. How did Macalester shape your life?
3. What was the most fun you had at Mac?
4. What is something about you that would surprise your Mac Classmates?
5. What’s giving you pleasure during this time of COVID?
Submissions received will be posted online only and updated on a weekly basis. Individual responses will be listed below. Please be sure to edit and review your text before completing the form. If you would like to submit a current photo to be included with your submission, please email the file to email@example.com. Please send the file in JPEG, TIFF or PNG format.
Looking forward to your memories and updates!
Read classmates reflections and memories
When we hit 70 Jim and I decided we should get a bit more ‘plan-full’ about the next decade or two. After retirement we ditched the Saint Paul townhouse for my family property on Ten Mile Lake in northern MN. Jim is a recovering architect and redesigned the cabin to be our year-round home. We called those 9+ years our “lake chapter” … and loved every season! However, the drives to movies, groceries, doctors, concerts all gave us pause. Maybe we needed a place where we could walk to any of these destinations. Jim spent much of his life in CO and the Four Corners….so Santa Fe seemed to fit the bill. Our “Southwest Chapter” is a perfect fit. Smaller town, arts, music, great food, DIVERSITY, day trips, hot springs, and so many interesting people. Our WATER work in northern MN is still part of our daily work long- distance. And, there is plenty of WATER work here…we are just taking our time getting engaged since it can take over one’s life! We’ve got grandkids from 1 year to 23 years….spread from Boston to AZ and CO. Like all grandparents, we are smitten! Our kids seem to be doing well with busy lives/jobs/parenting. Very much looking forward to hearing how friends are doing….and connecting with folks I didn’t know at Mac. :0)
I had so much fun as a resident at Kirk Hall- even though the bootleg “still” in the attic was removed before we arrived! I thrived as a modest member of the football team while striving to find my way in classes and having fun with my buddies from other states and around the world. Our collective contribution to the first Earth Day event on campus still inspires me today as we celebrate modest progress and seek more environmental improvements 50 years later. Macalester gave me a complex dynamic world view compared to my previous innocent limited view of how the world works. Although now retired from an academic medical career in family medicine I am still learning from others with different views. Macalester gave me my first chance at such learning.
Macalester prepared me for life, not just a career. More than just learning information in classes, I was exposed to world views that I may not have otherwise developed. Having been part of reunion planning committees over the years, I continue to be impressed by the caliber of students at Macalester. I am still enjoying teaching piano in my home after 42 years. I have learned new techniques of teaching in the last couple of months while having to teach on FaceTime and Skype. I try to develop the person, not only the music student. I enjoy adding new hobbies–learning languages and using them in my travels, indoor and outdoor gardening, piano music compositions, playing my Japanese koto harp, attempting to learn the guitar and button accordion, acrylic painting, yoga, a variety of dance forms.
M*n and H*s World – Another View
When I showed up at Macalester as one of those academically cocky youth from an advantaged background (both my parents college professors – who read the adult version of the Iliad as well as Pride and Prejudice to me when I was seven or eight on our summer car vacations), I thought I would breeze through my college days.
My encounter with Man and His World was a lesson to me, challenging that cockiness. A straight “A” student in high school, I expected this (and other classes) to be easy and my own brilliance recognized and acknowledged by the faculty teaching me. Some of my parents’ dinner table conversations were around their work joint teaching classes on Sartre and de Beauvoir, and I had a lot of existential nuances floating around in my head. So MHW seemed like it would be a snap,
Instead, I found it ponderous and dull – and the stuff about our Judeo-Christian heritage foreign (my skein on Christianity being that of my father – an opiate of the masses masking a deeper power game on the part of its leaders).
What I remember from MHW is that we had standardized, multiple choice tests on the picky details in our readings and they were scored on a curve. I got my first “B” since junior high. In order to retain some level of my cockiness, I blamed it on some preppy peers who had learned to somehow memorize those details – but it also was a lesson to me and suggested that life may have come too easily in the past. The world was larger than the oyster I had experienced in my own hometown.
Later, when I met Leah in a senior seminar, I viewed her as someone who must have had that preppy background which enabled her to breeze through the academics of Macalester, so self-assured and unchallenged. She was the embodiment to me of those preppy peers who skewed the curve and were responsible for my MHW “B.” Of course, I couldn’t really blame her personally, or for the other humbling “B”s that Mac faculty provided me.
I read each of my sons the Iliad, as well as other classics and Milne and Rowland and Tolkien, when they were seven or eight. I did so not to prepare them for MHW or give them an edge, but because I had enjoyed the adult versions when my parents read them to me. My MHW encounter helped enforce on me that learning is lifelong and that stretching one’s mind means learning deeper meaning (and the devil in the details) as one matures, even going over areas one felt one had mastered.
I am grateful for reading Leah’s own encounter with MHW and recognizing that, when she first came to Macalester, she actually did not “know it all” (as she gave every appearance to me) but that MHW contributed in her own path to knowledge and wisdom, along with her innate smarts, in those formative college years.
Graduating from Macalester was like being put before a great door that opened up so many opportunities for me throughout the years since. The professors I had who brought with them to Mac real life career experiences outside academia had lifelong influences on me. Though career choices at the time of graduation were limited due to my low draft number, I was fortunate to have made some good choices that kept that great door open to me. After a brief attempt at professional football I succumbed to my draft board and entered the USAF. With my college degree the recruiter told me the Air Force would only take me as officer if I volunteered to fly. That profession was never in the cards for me but it sounded better than the Army’s offer. I committed to a 6 year career, that ended 21 years later.
The teamwork I learned from my great coaches along with my athletic experience at Mac contributed immeasurably to my success as an Air Force officer and fighter pilot. I had some of the best assignments the Air Force had to offer. I flew the best fighter aircraft in the world, traveled the planet meeting some great leaders, and was involved in a small way in making US foreign policy decisions. I got to fly with the German Luftwaffe, and see Europe and the world politik through the eyes of my European friends and colleagues. While stationed in Alaska I had my own airplane and flew the Alaskan bush which afforded me the opportunity meet and establish relationships with the Inuit natives. I have been stationed in many wonderful foreign countries where I established many lifelong friends. I give almost total credit to the SWAP program and the perspective I gained through it to have been able to take advantage of and appreciate those opportunities from Vietnam to Desert Storm. I retired from a second flying career with American Airlines and got to experience the tragedy of 9/11 closer than I wanted to.
Since retiring 14 years ago I have divided my time between living summers in northern Minnesota and winters in Florida. I was able to pursue my love of sailing and writing. I have sailed the Caribbean, written and published two books; the first: “Hello America: A International Debate On The Events Leading To The War In Iraq” on the emotions leading up to the second Gulf War in collaboration with several European colleagues, and the second: “Footprints: A Practical Approach To Active Environmentalism” addressing the concerns of climate change and the environment. As a result of this book I will be teaching a course as an adjunct instructor on Climate Change/Environmentalism at Gulf Coast State College in the fall. I have enjoyed a positive relationship with Macalester since I retired having participated in the mentor program with the football team and as a founding member of the MacMods, the Macalester Alumni of Moderation whose goal, among others, is to bring diversity of viewpoint to the Macalester curriculum and community. The activism I learned as a 60s student at Macalester has served me well in this regard. With my supportive wife through all this, we have raised 5 very successful children and take great pride in our 5 grandchildren.
Macalester was the perfect school for a small-town Minnesota boy wanting to no longer be a small-town Minnesota boy. It combined the advantages of living in a major metropolitan area with small class-size and the opportunity to get to know the faculty on a personal basis. Major influences on me were Walt Mink in the Psych Department and Eddie Hill in Biology. Walt instilled in me a passion for neuroscience, which led me to my current career as a neuropathologist. I studied in the MD/PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis and did my residency and fellowship training there as well. I spent about 10 years on the faculty of Washington U and Southern Illinois University Medical School before moving back home to Minnesota thirty years ago, where I have been on the faculty of the U of M Medical School Twin Cities Campus. I have been involved in diagnostic neuropathology, research, student and resident teaching, and occasionally make forays over to Macalester to teach a lab in one of the Neuroscience courses with Liz Jansen.
One of the social benefits of going to Mac was being in the Twin Cities and taking part in the folk and blues music scene around town, including No Exit Coffeehouse in the old student union, but also the West Bank and other local college venues. I moved off campus after my freshman year, so I probably had fewer social contacts among the student body, but friends that I made in that first year and later still are among my most cherished.
Retirement hovers on the horizon, likely occurring this autumn, but I plan to stay on part-time as an Emeritus Professor. Over the past 15 years I have been performing music in the local coffeehouse scene both with my wife, Betsy, and more recently with a good friend, keyboardist Randy Amborn, under the billing of “Old Guys Play the Blues”. Last May we played at a blues festival in Brownsville, Tennessee and are going back again this year. One of the people playing at the festival last year was Howie Stith (Poor Howard), who went to Mac before going into the service, and was back from Germany and living in the Macalester area during our senior year. His picture is in the 1970 yearbook (mine isn’t, so go figure). I had not seen Howie in 49 years, so we had a lot of fun recalling the old days. I am hoping that retirement will give me more time to work on my guitar playing and perhaps do more performing.
Here comes the commercial message:
I have been a fairly steady financial contributor to Macalester over the years. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Mac on scholarship and I would like to pay it forward to current and future Macalester students. I recently have established a Wallace Society endowment fund in my estate plan to provide scholarship support to students studying neuroscience at Mac.
Retirement life is a blast – full of family, travel and friends!! It’s always great fun seeing Mac classmates. I’m looking forward to our 50th Reunion weekend in June!
We are pleased to share Rebecca’s Dissertation “Student Expectations, University Goals: Looking for Alignment in General Education Science. Please click the link below to view the full document.
Macalester has been a central part of my life ever since I left the east coast to attend Mac, sight unseen in 1966. I had never been west of West Virginia or south of North Carolina, let alone overseas, when I graduated from high school. Traveling around the country to visit colleges was a huge expense back then and I relied on an older friend who was at Macalester and a great presentation from an admissions officer.
Little did I know I would later marry a future admissions officer, Alison Seale, who I came to know in the early 70s as the Alumni Admissions rep in the Washington, D.C. area! We have been together since marrying at the old Alumni House on the Mac campus in 1974 and have two great kids and three young grandchildren, who are at opposite ends of the country—Bozeman and Boston!
I was the first student manager of the new Mac Alumni House during my junior and senior years, and traveled to speak to Alumni groups around the country. I also helped organize the groups of students and faculty who went into the local community after Kent State and we had shut down the campus. In later years, I volunteered for various Alumni duties, was on the Alumni Board, served as President of the Alumni Association, was on the Board of Trustees for 18 years and am now Chair of the Trustees Emerita/Emeritus group.
I do joke that I am like a bad penny….I keep coming back!
I was always interested in government and politics and after going to graduate school at the University of Southern California in International Relations, I returned to Washington, D.C. I worked for Senator Frank Church on the Intelligence Committee that he chaired in the mid-1970s, investigating assassination plots against foreign leaders, illegal surveillance of Americans involved in anti-war protests and civil rights, and CIA/NSA actions. I later worked in his office, on his campaign for President and managed his campaign for reelection. After Democrats got wiped out in 1980 I headed up a group called Democrats for the 80s, founded by Pamela and Averell Harriman (I now refer to it as Dems in THEIR 80s)!
After that I started a non-profit that still exists, the Center for Responsive Politics/Open Secrets, and also put together a political consulting business to do media work and strategy for Democratic candidates and progressive groups. The Center’s success was due to a wonderful succession of Executive Directors and Board members who took the idea and ran with it—-making me more convinced than ever that campaign finance reform is critical to a functioning democracy, if we can ever make it happen.
Over more than 30 years the consulting firm, with a group of great partners and associates, has worked in over 300 campaigns, from President to Mayor. I had the chance to be a spokesperson on news channels before it seemed to degenerate into Gladiator TV. But it has been a great run and though I, like many, need daily therapy to deal with the decay of democracy I remain an optimist and do believe, as John Kennedy used to say, “politics is a noble profession.”
I enjoy sitting on a number of non-profit humanitarian boards, keep working at a slower pace and try to travel as much as possible to visit the kids and enjoy the world. There is plenty to do and more causes to battle, more to learn and more friends to make. And I thank Macalester for the path it put me on so many years ago.
I remember feeling so lucky to finally get into a dorm our freshman year. Due to the housing shortage I was on a waiting list for a few weeks. Finally I got word that I would move into Turck Hall. While it was great news for me, it might have been received differently by the junior who was stuck with me after her roommate decided not to return to school. I loved the two years I spent at Turck. Having a curfew didn’t seem so awful because we entertained each other after hours. There were pranks to be pulled and hours of bridge to play. (When we pushed the boundaries, we only got a mild talking to from our “house mother”.) It was a chance to get to know older and wiser upper classwomen while also having loads of fun with classmates.
I suppose all colleges and universities change us, but Macalester REALLY changed me. Part of it was the times; Vietnam looming; profound social change swirling around us; extraordinary courses, guest speakers that provoked, teach-ins, all night conversations about what the hell we were going to do with our lives. After our sophomore year I travelled to India for six and a half months, organized by Bruce McEwen at the International House. Nothing was ever the same!
When I came back I was adopted by David McCurdy in the anthropology department and never looked back. I’d begun taking photography seriously and still try to bring ethnography and photography together in books and films.
In the spring of ’70 as you remember there was the first draft lottery. We were all freaking out. I got lucky and tasted freedom. No joy, but relief. I moved to Boston when we graduated (or, I should say, “left” Macalester, because after the Kent State killings the campus shut down and it took months to complete the final course requirements). I wanted to start from scratch in a place I’d never been. Two boxes of books, the Nikon I’d bought in India and $127.
Eventually became a graduate student in the sociology program at Brandeis and was blessed with incredible professors who nurtured my strange sociology. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on railroad tramps, an ethnography by immersion. It eventually became a book, Good Company. I’m very sad that the man who inspired this study, Prof. Jim Spradley (the second anthropology prof at Macalester) died of cancer just as the book was being published. Jim had steered me through this experience, both the fieldwork and the writing, and he gave me heart when things looked bleak.
I taught sociology at SUNY Potsdam for 16 years; began a family there. We lived in a 19th c farmhouse, back to the land hippies. In many ways it was a great life. In that era I also began teaching part time in Amsterdam and Bologna, and eventually left the North Country to teach at USF in Tampa (ugh!!!) and for 20 great years at Duquesne U in Pittsburgh, where my son Colter became a fine jazz musician.
I’ve written several books that integrate photography and narrative/ethnographic writing. My favorite is Working Knowledge, about Willie, a mechanic in northern New York. Yes, I shared the royalties. I also wrote about dairy farmers, the sociology of food in Bologna, fascist semiotics in Rome, Hong Kong lifestyle migrants and several text-booky projects. I also made two documentary films, both co-directed, and several books are co-authored. With a small number of friends I helped establish what is now known as “visual sociology.” I have several projects underway and hope to continue writing and photographing until I can’t anymore. There is a list on a WIKI page if anyone is interested.
I have always loved teaching and consider it a great privilege. I retired from Duquesne four years ago but have taught part time at St. Thomas since returning to Minnesota (and the house I grew up in) in April, 2017, 47 years after heading east in my battered Corvair for Boston.
Macalester was tough for me in the beginning. I was a middling student. Like so many of us I admired Chuck Green in Political Science (and others in that great department) but it was clear I didn’t really fit in. I’d begun to take art classes and used to kid that I was going to illustrate law books. Had David White (a great philosophy prof) and Chuck Green not sent my India papers to McCurdy I’d never have found my way. It’s amazing, looking back. They were looking out for me.
I’ve tried to teach as these great profs taught me; direct, sympathetic, positive. I believe in sociology almost as a religion. The mundane repairs of a bricoleur mechanic, the culture inside a boxcar, the power dynamics around food in an Italian family, international migration as a lifestyle, and in the symbols of fascist power still adorning the Roman cityscapes. Sociology is everywhere and helps me find my way through the dizzying and dismaying times we live in now. Thank you Macalester, for all the things you are.
Having lived in the Twin Cities for the whole 50 years, I’m grateful for the lifelong Mac friends and the memories they’ve helped create. It’s been fun to be near the campus for arts and other special events. Still, Mac helped inspire the longing to travel and the grit to make it happen. A worldly school is inspiring in many ways.
Macalester, and Yahya Armajani, got me started on an extensive life abroad, leading to nearly two decades in the Middle East. I spent 9 months in Lebanon, two years in Egypt, 13 years in Kuwait and 9 months, 8 days, and 3 hours in Saudi Arabia (not my favorite experience).
Macalester gave me the ability to learn in almost any environment and a lively inquisitive intellect.
When I moved back to the US I found it difficult getting a job since all of my work experience was overseas and potential US employers couldn’t be bothered contacting previous foreign employers. I did find part time work in sleazy motels (to start), took a midcareer position in the US foreign service, and ended up living in metro DC where I have been for the past 30 years.
I was an Alumni Board member for about two years in the 1990s.
In January of 1968, in the depths of a Minnesota winter, my roommate Jim Richardson (‘68) and I threw a beach party in Section 2 of Kirk Hall. Our guests were Ellen Siewert (‘70) and Leslie Anne Mayberry King (‘68). We cranked the heat up, wore our bathing suits, and created a tropical paradise. It was very metaphorical. Trays of water became our beach. A tiny potted palm stood in for the jungle. We created a campfire with a mass of candles. We drank pineapple juice and rum out of halved coconuts and roasted marshmallows over our campfire to make s’mores. It was delightful!
I have been returned for almost 6 years and have enjoyed it very much. I have more time to travel and do what I want to do. I tell working people the major rewards of retirement are no alarm clock and no driving in rush hour traffic.
Macalester is a big contributing factor in my success in life which lead to my being able to retire. Maybe it gave me the open mind that lead me to listen when people said “Social Security is not enough. You must invest some of your own money. ” Of course, the tax advantage of 401ks, 403bs, and IRAs help a lot.
I am deeply indebted to Macalester which launched me on a fascinating and successful vocation and avocation of internationalism. My life has been intertwined with Mac throughout.
As a student I participated in the SWAP (Student Work Abroad Program) in Utrecht, The Netherlands with the added opportunity to explore much of Western Europe by car and motorcycle with two classmates and life-long friends, Lee Pierce and Eric Wheeler. As an undergraduate I become an intern with the World Press Institute (WPI), then based at Mac.
These extraordinary experiences led to a career in non-profit, for-profit and government international exchange. I went on to positions as program director and executive director of the WPI and executive director of The Travelers Society and the Japan America Society of Minnesota. I also founded and was president of Global Access International Associates (GAIA) consulting with domestic and foreign non- and for-profit entities. I culminated my career as international marketing manager for Asia and Europe with Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism agency.
As important, was meeting my wife Pat Armstrong (Class of 1971), a parent support professional, and starting a wonderful family with two successful children; Andrew, an award winning film-maker and cinema entrepreneur, and Nina, a child development specialist, parent coach and business woman.
Macalester instilled in me an insatiable quest to actively learn about other cultures through experiential travel. As a result I have worked in, traveled to and explored nearly 80 countries by plane, train and automobile – as well as glider plane, motorcycle, and on skis, Segways and foot. I continue to investigate my own country through travel camping by RV and motorcycle. In retirement I have been a volunteer travel staff member of WPI, annually leading the 10 journalist Fellows on political, economic and cultural introductions to Washington DC, New York, Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, TX.
I have innumerable friendships from my Mac days that are as strong today as they were in May of 1970.
I suppose the MHW committee should get a posthumous thanks because, for me, the first semester of MHW provided some of my most formative views of my Macalester education, and several things that have stuck with me. As below, the second semester—I recall very little—but the first semester a lot.
The older I get the more I realize how much time and place matters, how each of our stories is our own story, and how people in the same place at the same time will see and recall what happened in very different ways. The way Fall MHW resonated for me relates to the place I was on “my journey” at the juncture of my life.
First where I was “coming from.” I grew up on a farm four miles from a town of 300 people 40 miles south of Kansas City. A number of tiny rural school districts were consolidated to create Cass County Reorganized District #1 with my high school graduating class of 35 kids. There were a couple of bright spots in my education that served me well—Frank Mickelson, my 8th and 11th grade English teacher, who was in love with English grammar such that I learned the rules well—a couple of good elementary school teachers—and the class I say was my most demanding one in high school (and I’m not kidding)—typing. I had a serious-no-nonsense typing teacher, and I became a very fast and accurate typist. A number of my Mac classmates in college prep classes hadn’t learned to type. As our computer world has evolved, I’m quite glad to have acquired that skill. The intellectual challenge of my high school education overall was pretty nonexistent.
I was a voracious reader, though, with good reading comprehension—although I had not read much of anything that would be defined as a “classic.” I came from a family of teachers who encouraged valuing education—so I had that going for me. (I sometimes reflect a kid needs the family or the school—and without either one it’s very tough to dig out.)
Of the 35 kids in my class, four went to college right after high school (although some others acquired college degrees later and went on to professional careers). The other three went to state schools in Kansas and Missouri. None of my past knowledge of higher education had prepared me for what Macalester was like.
I was terrified. I quickly realized how much more my classmates had been exposed to than I. didn’t buy anything with Macalester on it for weeks because I was sure I would fail. At the same time, I was looking to Mac at first to provide some of the cool, “social” experience I associated with “campus life,” and Mac wasn’t exactly like that.
In retrospect, I’ve seen how falling into Mac was the best decision I ever made. I say it wasn’t the happiest four years of my life—but the ways it supported and shaped me put me on a path to a life that has been a rewarding and satisfying one.
Back to MHW’s place in this story.
One of my favorite quotes, a paraphrase of a line in Mark Twain’s autobiography, is “I’ve reached the age where the things I remember best never happened at all.” I’m describing what I remember of MHW, and I hope some of it is even what happened.
At some point, I “got” the first-semester course structure was to consider how contemporary Western thought was shaped by the Greek and Hebrew worlds. I recall the texts for those parts were fixed among all sections, but the individual professor could choose a modern work or two to “bring it together at the end.” The one I remember being assigned was The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart. I just read the plot summary from the web. All that I had remembered was that it was of a Jewish legend of a number of just men who must exist at all times, and a descendant of that legacy at the Holocaust. I found it deeply affecting at the time.
We started with the Greeks, and I think my copies of Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War, the Oresteia, and The Dialogues of Plato are still somewhere in my house. As I recall, the Hebrew part was one large book with Old Testament in the title, although I didn’t keep it. As below, that was less “news” to me than the Greeks and Schwarz-Bart.
So, three reasons why MHW-Fall was important to me.
- The teacher who, for me, was perfect for the course and perfect for me
- Its role in starting to level the playing field of all the things about Western culture I hadn’t previously learned
- Its engagement in questions that I’ve continued to find intriguing, particularly in recent years after one has lived for a long time including the following: What influences an individual, and the groups of which they are part, to think a particular way? What are the implications of thinking that way? What is the point of life? What is a good life? What do we value, and where do those values come from? How do those vary among people?
First Professor Bowen. I’m not sure now what his first name was—to me it was Professor.
- I’ll begin with his apparent passion for what we were doing, his capacity to engage, and his extraordinary ability to teach by discussion (at least as I remember it).
- My recollection is that everyone in the class talked eventually. There was something about him that compelled you to want to talk. I actually don’t remember the content that much—just that sometimes what we were talking about seemed so important and fundamental and challenging that I felt on the verge of tears. And people seemed “fighting to talk.” I felt challenged as to what I thought—in a good and probing rather than threatening way.
- I recall he was a Humanities professor so probably someone ideally suited to teach the course. I expect some in other disciplines were perhaps dragooned to do something they weren’t happy about.
- I recall someone saying to me then he’d been a former Jesuit. Having grown up in a completely Protestant place with one Catholic family, that didn’t mean much to me then. Having now taught at The Catholic University of America since 1981 as well as learning much more about Catholic traditions even before I was at CUA—I now have an idea of why that is a thought tradition that would have prepared him for leading the kinds of discussion I remember.
- Next there are two stories I always tell as illustrating one of the reasons Macalester was the right place for me, this one relating to Mac being the perfect bridge from where I was coming from to where I ended up going.
- We were assigned to write an essay early in the semester. I think maybe it was something about the concept of hero or hubris. Not sure. Anyway, I had never had an assignment like it, and I didn’t have much of a clue what it was. I got the paper back and it said something like “A- for content, C+ for structure, see me.” I met with Professor Bowen, and he took me by the metaphorical hand and walked me through what an essay was, how one chose a topic, how you started, how you proceeded, and invited me to come and see him again as I worked through the next comparable assignment.
- Also, early on we had a pop quiz on one of the plays in the Oresteia. I had read it, the way I would have read most things in high school, as a fast reader able to get the overall idea pretty easily. I don’t know why I think I know this, but I believed I had gotten second lowest score in the class (and it was LOW). I remember to this day the only person’s who was lower. (I guess I was grateful someone was lower.) We then though had another test on it, and I remember studying nonstop and having then a MUCH clearer idea of what KIND of reading was necessary for this assignment.
- It’s a big deal in education now to talk about “formative assessment,” e.g., feedback on how to do better, versus “summative assessment,” e.g., the grade you get at the end. Law schools used to be horrendous at the former and only do the latter but have been pressed to improve. I don’t recall the specifics of what counted toward the final grade, but the fact I got an A in the class in the end suggests that the assignments were structured so students could learn what was expected and how to improve—exactly what education should do.
- And, what’s more, his “see me” encouraged me to reach out to future professors when I had questions. And unfailingly they were kind and helpful. And that got me through the terror and helped me to figure out how to dig out of the educational deficit I came with. I made some wonderful friends in college who are still friends and had some good out-of-class experiences, but, different from many people, I’d say that the relationships I had with faculty were the most meaningful part of my college experience. And that’s what’s always made it extremely difficult to see why someone would want to attend a large university with huge classes.
- An aside. I’ve thought a lot in life about what seem to be bad experiences often turn out to be the converse. I spent a lot of money and effort trying to assure my children had excellent educations, e.g., they wrote a zillion essays in elementary and high school. I’ve thought though that my kids, who went to superb, demanding schools, like some of my Mac classmates, who had excelled in super-suburban schools, seemed “tired” by the time they got to college and reacted with “I just want to have fun and not be a grind all the time.” On the other hand for me, it was heaven to be in a place with smart people who knew and cared about so many things I had never heard of—particularly my professors who had devoted much of their lives to their subjects—in a place with a library of infinite wonders—and new books and new courses—it was all a big candy store. And I wasn’t tired. I worked very hard during my four years in college, and I loved that work. I think by the time I got to law school, I was a tired—taking a couple of years off could have been a good thing. But academically four years at Mac was a dream. And I give much of the credit for getting me on a good path to Fall MHW and Professor Bowen.
Second, there’s the introduction it played for me in the gaps of my knowledge of the “Western canon.”
- I don’t think I had ever even heard of a Greek myth before MHW. (I made sure my children grew up with the kids’ mythology books, and learning them as a child, they loved them. Just as they love Shakespeare from “doing it” since elementary school, while I’ve never managed to relate—think I just came to it too late.) At Mac, I recall buying the Edith Hamilton’s classic book on Greek mythology to try and figure out some of what was being talked about.
- As in the next point, today I listen to a lot of Great Courses and Modern Scholar series in my car and gravitate to the history of thought ones. I’ve just been listening to a series of lectures on the Greeks and Hebrews, recalling threads of MHW and finally having some aha moments of what was really important about Thucydides. At least though after fall MHW, I knew who Aeschylus WAS although I’m still grappling with the significance of the plays.
- At least when we got to the Hebrews, my 16-year perfect attendance pin from Presbyterian Sunday School came in handy, and I recognized the characters—although we were looking at the Bible from a very different point of view.
And third, my guess my interest in intellectual history is one of those innate things, not created by MHW—but who knows?
I’ve studied adult development a bit as part of thinking about law teaching. What I’ve read supports the notion that most people don’t develop the capacity to reflect on a lot of the “big questions” until their 30s. As a freshman in college, I probably didn’t think one “thought about” what is a good life, what is knowledge, how do we construct our values. I had grown up in an environment where I guess that was supposed to be a given—what a small-town Protestant would think of such things. While, I’m not sure I fully “got” what MHW was trying to get me to think about, much less engage in deep thinking about it, I think the course played an important role in getting me to consider those really are QUESTIONS. And I think it’s perhaps in the post-50 period of life when one is most interested and able to engage them.
The second semester wasn’t the same for me. I remember we had two books. Issues in Science in Religion and a book on philosophy of science by Karl Popper. I mostly remember the latter because I never quite figured out how that book linked up with Popper’s conception of Open Society, which prompted George Soros to give away a gazillion dollars on things I consider to be good things. Lloyd Gaston was a nice man. I later took my required religion course from him. But I can’t say I remember much about that semester at all.
Reflections on what might have been different
- I realize the Western culture critique and the dead-white-men problem. On the other hand, there is much in that canon that indeed has had a profound influence on how we got where we are—for good and for ill—and I think it’s useful for people to be familiar with that content.
- One of my most interesting Great Courses series has been Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition. I would have been more excited about a second semester that contrasted the Western culture origins of the first semester with Eastern, perhaps Native American, Islamic, and other major cultural traditions ways of looking at the world. I generally find comparison one of the most powerful ways for me to learn.
- I realize all the minefields there are in cultural comparison. I think, though, it could have been fascinating though to consider critically how those Greek and Hebrew roots made us what we are and how different roots may have influenced other societies to see the world differently.
- And given that I’ve never been much of a science person, the second semester just didn’t grab me—and probably that would have more. I actually didn’t realize until Jackie’s briefer on MHW that the point of MHW was supposed to be to introduce one to the liberal arts disciplines. I think I missed that.
- On the other hand, I am interested when the intellectual history courses I listen to talk about shifting paradigms in thinking, empiricism, etc. That part seems important. Somehow though 2nd semester MHW wasn’t taught in a way that it fully “got through” to me.
- Over the years, I’ve come to think that a very important thing about any course is the teacher. I expect I would have learned a great deal from Professor Bowen no matter what he taught. And, as a teacher, one of my maxims to new teachers always is, “You have to find a passion in this course. If you don’t think what you are teaching is important, you will never convince the students.” I expect dragooning a lot of people from a lot of disciplines into MHW probably dragged in a number of people who didn’t have the passion for the subject matter assigned. And given all the demands on academics, I can well understand how it could have felt a serious imposition to take on subject matter well out of one’s field of knowledge. At the same time, interdisciplinary is another form of comparison. I wonder if there was an ongoing sharing notes among faculty part of MHW. I hope at least some of those involved in designing and teaching felt a stretch in the way they saw things that was valuable to them.