Monday, November 17, 2014

The Forever Professors

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 17th, 2014

I cried only once. In April, right after I left a departmental personnel meeting about the search for the new hire who would replace me. At the point where students were scheduled to come in and say what they thought was both good and bad about the drawing and painting program that I headed, I stood up (per an arrangement with my chairman) and recused myself so that the students might speak freely. I gathered my books and folders. Walking down an empty stairwell, I burst into tears.
Five years ago, I signed an "irrevocable agreement" with Hofstra University that paid me a bonus to retire "early." In my case, that meant at the age of 66. I saw retiring early as an existential embrace of freedom; a last grab to paint my pictures without interruption; to teach maybe, but only occasionally, as a visiting artist; to reread The Magic Mountain; to ponder the starry firmament above and the moral law within.
On commencement day this year, those five years had passed. Recovering my initial passion to leave full-time teaching behind required an almost daily fight to suppress the thought, "This is the last time I will ever do this." I couldn’t help but hear Dylan singing in my head, "How does it feel / To be without a home /Like a complete unknown / Like a rolling stone?"

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