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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What a long, strange trip it's been

This week, after more than 40 years, I will step into a classroom as a teacher for the last time.  This week, for the first time in nearly 60 years, the rhythm of my life will not be the rhythm of the academic calendar. 
In 1953, I entered kindergarten (and escaped, into the first grade, after one semester).  In 1965, I arrived on a college campus as a student for the first time.  Within only a few months, I found myself thinking of college as home.  Within four years, I realized I did not want to leave.  And so I went to graduate school.  And in late August, 1970, I became a TA at West Virginia University.  There, TAs mostly had complete classroom responsibility for two courses per semester, and that semester I taught two sections of introductory microeconomics (Economics 51, as I recall), at 3:00 and 4:00 PM, MWF. That 4 o’clock class remains, to this day, one of my worst teaching experiences.  It was a class of about 35 students, and on the first Friday (the Friday before Labor Day), about 6 students showed up.  The next Friday, even fewer…
In 1973, I got my first full-time teaching position (the first of three one-year gigs, as it turned out), serving as a leave-replacement instructor at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, WV.  My own office (for the first time) with bookshelves and an actual window.  [At the end at WVU, I shared an office in the old basketball facility, with pieces of dry wall falling from the roof after rainstorms (by which point they wet-wall)]  With four years out to work in local government in the late 1970s (and teach part-time), it’s been full-time teaching ever since, the past 25 years here at Indiana University Northwest, in Gary, IN…35 years as a full-time faculty member, four years as an adjunct, and 3 years as a TA.
And it’s been a truly great experience for me.  I have been able to work at a job that provided me with great satisfaction, I have been able (I hope) to help a fairly large number of students learn enough economics for their purposes.  I’ve done some research that interested me, even if no one else much cared.  I have met and worked with and become close friends with a group of people I can truly say have changed my life.  Some have also been economists, some have been in other disciplines and even at other institutions.  I cherish them all.
Now, however, the work—the paid work—part of that comes to an end.  I am pleased to say I am not ambivalent about it.  I have things I want to do, and I will be happy with the difference this makes in my personal life as well (we live in two cities and each of us works in one of them; the commuting will end). 
As Robert Hunter wrote (in “Truckin’ ”), what a long, strange trip it’s been.  And I am happy to have taken it.


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