After 45 years teaching at Guilford College, I have joined the ranks of the retired. On March 16, in the middle of our spring break, I was scheduled to give a talk, the second stop on my two-stop speaking tour for a book I wrote about the college’s long-running noontime pick-up basketball game, GEEZERBALL: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir). COVID-19 had arrived, and many events were being canceled. The woman who had invited me to give the talk called that day to see if I wanted to cancel, and she and I agreed to go ahead with the talk. We did, a surprisingly good crowd showed up (one, a former student, had flown down from New Jersey for this event), and we had a good time. Had it been scheduled just a day or two later, I am sure we would have canceled. By the end of that week, the college had shifted all classes to online instruction, and in almost every way my life and the lives of those around me changed dramatically.
By the end of April, as I celebrated my 75th birthday, I decided to retire. Then, like many old retired guys, I found myself thinking back to my early days, especially my decision in 1973 to move from Santa Cruz, California, to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the teaching job at Guilford, a Quaker-affiliated school. I realized, quite belatedly, that I was the first Jew hired at the college, and this has led me to write another retrospective account (another “sort of a memoir”), this one titled Jews, Palestinians, and Friends: 45 Years at a Quaker College (Sort of a Memoir). This project has led me to think back to the Jews and the Quakers I knew at Wesleyan. Among the Jews in the class of 1967 were the three Jewish amigos, Don Gerber, Myron Kinberg, and Bernie Steinberg—I could probably name all the other Jewish students in our class as there were not very many. The two Quakers on campus that I remember most clearly (in part because they were the first Quakers I ever knew) were David Swift, a professor of religion I was fortunate to take a course with, and Bill Dietz ’66 (generally referred to by Barbara Davidson as “Doctor Doctor Dietz”). Writing this book helped to take my mind off the woes of my little Quaker college, which is struggling mightily to stay afloat, and also helped take my mind off the woes of our country.
As it turns out, I am not the only one who has retired after a long academic career. Our classmate, Tony Caprio, stepped down in June 2020, after 24 years as the president at Western New England University. Tony was the longest-serving president in the school’s 100-year history. Remaining in office as a college president for 24 years is quite an accomplishment—tenured faculty, if they avoid what typically in the profession is called “moral turpitude,” sometimes hang on until they have to be wheeled out, but college presidents only can continue in their jobs if their Boards of Trustees decide to renew their contracts. Given that the average tenure for a college president these days is down to 6.5 years (it was 8.5 years in 2006), it appears that Tony survived and seems to have thrived in a challenging job.
At the end of my last set of class notes, I gave a quiz in which I asked for information about “the late Edward McCune ’67” who left $6 million to Wesleyan and allegedly was a classmate of ours. I now have received some info on him which I will share in my next set of notes. Let’s have another quiz, this one with four, perhaps easier, questions. First, who in our class has the most grandchildren? Second, who since graduation has lived in the most states (for at least a year in each state)? Third, who has been married the most times?
Finally, the fourth question. I have seen Springsteen five times (always great), Dylan three times (awful each time), and John Prine and James Taylor five or six times. Rick Voigt ’68 tells me that he has seen Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, a band that includes some Wesleyan alums, five times. What musical performer have you seen the most frequently, and how many times?
The answers to these questions might help you write your memoirs. Stay safe.
Richie Zweigenhaft | email@example.com