It was only as the plane made a sweeping turn over Cairo proper, and I glimpsed the Nile River, a surprisingly slender blue vein almost lost in the sprawl, that I had my Dorothy moment: I most certainly was not in Swarthmore anymore. I’d spent four years hardly ever leaving Swat, even filling the summer [...]
In My Life
For the October 1966 Bulletin, three years after my graduation, I wrote an article with the whimsical title “What Are You Running in Your Underwear For?” It was not common to see people running along public roads in those days, and the bright athletic apparel we have now was not yet available in stores. All [...]
In the fall of my senior year, Professor Mark Wallace announced to our Postmodern Religion Thought honors seminar that we could understand the 20th century as a choice between Roland Barthes and Karl Barth. Naturally, this inspired Christine Smallwood ’03, one of my first-year roommates, and me to go straight home to make matching hand-lettered [...]
We freshmen in the Class of 1963 arrived at Swarthmore on a wave of euphoria born of freedom from parental control, the beauty of the campus, and the excitement of meeting talented peers from across the country. Quite soon, reality hit. All freshmen in those days had to take five full-credit courses. Each course, it [...]
My seventh-grade students walk into an unfamiliar school, where we have been invited to hear visiting author Julia Alvarez. The girls are highly excited at the prospect of meeting the famed Dominican-American writer, but it’s the host school that quickly draws their attention. They have never seen anything like it. They are astounded at how [...]
It’s been a long time since I sat with some of you waiting to receive our diplomas in the Scott Amphitheater—a lifetime ago, you might say.
Parts of that day are clear as I look back: the ping-pong balls we handed to President Dorie Friend, the raucous trumpets when Peter Schickele ’57 received his honorary degree [...]
THE WEAPON THAT GOT KEN TAKENAGA AND ME was an RPG, a rocket-propelled grenade. You’ve probably seen RPGs in news footage of Afghan mujahedeen or Taliban fighters. The launcher is a long thin tube the gunner rests on his shoulder like a bazooka, and the projectile sticks out the front of the tube like a [...]
I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out,
“It tastes sweet, does it not?”
“You’ve caught me,” grief answered,
“and you’ve ruined my business.
How can I sell sorrow, when you know it’s a blessing.”
—Rumi, Birdsong, transl. Coleman Barks
NOT LONG AFTER MY MOTHER DIED IN 2009, I realized that I had accomplished one of my life’s [...]
AFTER GRADUATION IN MAY 1982, I rented a U-Haul, filled it with my stuff, and unloaded the cartons in my parents’ basement. Weeks later, I flew to Jerusalem to play in a rock-and-roll band and study Arabic—and from there to Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Ethiopia on a Watson Fellowship. At the end of the [...]
IN MY SECOND YEAR OF GRAD SCHOOL, THE RIVER RAN DRY.
With a degree in ancient Greek and no clear plans for life after Swarthmore, I’d been relieved when the University of Pennsylvania offered me a fellowship for their doctoral program in classical studies. Because I enjoyed studying the languages, history, and literature of the ancient [...]