What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?
I was a fresh-off-the-plane kid from Omaha who had never been to New York. Still, having grown up on Mad Magazine and Woody Allen films, I felt I understood the “New York” sensibility — cynical, literate and colorful — and anticipated that I would enjoy living in such a different, yet somehow familiar, world. On my very first day I paid a visit to the Mad offices on Madison Avenue, and came away with a picture of Alfred E. Neuman inscribed to me by Antonio Prohías (creator of “Spy vs. Spy”). After scoring that picture on Day One, I felt that in New York anything was possible.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
I was happy that my suitemates in 1004 Carman, who hailed from Denver, Colo., and Darien, Conn., were just as eager to explore the wonders of New York as I was. Together we bought and shared a small refrigerator and hot plate, but neglected to buy a broom and dustpan, thus creating a challenge for the cleaning crew when we left for winter break. Our floor decided to buy a ping pong table, which unfortunately was positioned just outside our door. It took a while, but we managed to synchronize our sleep patterns to the rhythm of the late-night games.
What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?
My Lit Hum professor Pellegrino A. D’Acierno’65, GSAS’73 was a brilliant and kind man who not only nurtured our intellects, but cared for us as people. Because he was a member of the Italian department, our classes were held at Casa Italiana, a wondrous setting in which to study literature. Professor D’Acierno’s other passion was film, particularly Fellini, and I remember being exposed to a flood of new and extraordinary ideas that still resonate in me to this day.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
I loved secreting myself within the stacks of Butler Library. The compact study areas at the end of the narrow, dark aisles offered a womb-like environment that was ideal for contemplation and study, and I enjoyed many productive hours there. By my senior year the public areas had been renovated with warm lights and nice, big leather chairs, but I still gravitated to the stacks for the solitude and sense of focus they provided.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?
I’m happy to say that I took classes in many different areas, not just my major, and was challenged and stimulated by all of them. I also took advantage of the many activities offered on campus and throughout the city. If I were to choose one thing to do over, it would have been to go beyond satisfying the one-year athletics requirement by continuing tennis lessons in Riverside Park with superstar Butch Seewagen, who had defeated Jimmy Connors in 1972. He was an amazing coach!