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Te Gift of 30 Years A PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR REFLECTS ON THE EVOLUTION OF HIS CAREER AND QUEENS


One day during my second semester at Queens, the topic in class led students to discuss their religious backgrounds, and after one comment, the atmosphere suddenly became very tense. As I thought about what to say, student Greg Waldrop ’93 made a gentle and self-deprecating joke that brought the class to laughter and punctured the balloon of tension. I was grateful to Greg (who on his course evaluation wrote that I should be given “ten-year” and a raise), as I’ve been grateful for so, so many students I’ve known over the years.


Te willingness of students to engage in authentic dialogue—


facilitated greatly by the Queens educational design and faculty who love to teach—has been remarkable. Socrates did not have it as good, and I have not been put to death for my teaching. Te collegiality between students and faculty was further


Norris Frederick, PhD, treasures his international study experiences at Queens. Here he stands in the forefront of Potala Palace, the historic winter palace of the Dalai Lama, during a 2002 Queens study tour in Tibet.


In May, I retired after 47 years of teaching philosophy, the best and last 30 of them at Queens. As I see the kaleidoscope of all those years here, there is impossibly much I’d like to convey, so I’ll just share a few vignettes. I came to Queens because of the liberal learning core curriculum, which gave students a common general education experience and required faculty to frequently teach out of our field, with guidance from colleagues. My first week at Queens required me to teach the Salem Witch Trials, about which I knew nothing, except that they involved witches and were set in Salem. A colleague in history selected exceedingly long articles explaining those events in Massachusetts back in 1692-93. Te first day of class added to the challenging readings the


new experience of 20 students seated in a tight rectangle. Whew, I made it through that first day, so I was a bit more relaxed at the start of the second day, until in walked an observer, President Billy O. Wireman. “I’m a dead man,” I thought, and I instantly wondered whether I should have gone into the dry cleaning business. Regardless, I drew on my years of teaching and lived to teach another day.


50 MAGAZINE


strengthened by the international study experiences. I’ve helped guide these journeys to Italy, Germany, China, Tibet and Australia. In Italy, we saw breathtaking art in museums and cathedrals. In the Vatican Museum, we saw Raphael’s 16th century fresco of the philosophers in Te School of Athens, a reproduction of which has hung on my office wall for 20 years. In Australia, we went to the Sydney Opera House, trekked through the outback and listened to an aboriginal woman tell us creation stories. Not bad for a boy whose most exotic trip imaginable was Myrtle Beach. In 2000, I became dean of Te College of Arts and Sciences


(under President Wireman). When President Pamela Davies did a national search for Queens’ vice president of academic affairs in 2003, I was honored to be chosen and to work with her in that role for five years. However, my heart lies in studying and teaching philosophy, and I happily chose to return to that for the past dozen years. Today when I see all the new and renovated buildings at


Queens, as well as our fine new young faculty and our many talented students, I am proud to have had a small part in that growth. My years at Queens have been a gift to me, and I am very grateful. I’d love to have you join me and continue the journey on my blog, philosophyforlivingtoday.org.


Norris Frederick, PhD, is the James A. Jones Professor of Philosophy at Queens. He has taught a wide range of subjects, from ancient philosophy to contemporary philosophy, from ethics to political philosophy, from pragmatism to philosophy of religion, from existentialism to Zen.


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