Excerpt from 2005 Celebration of Robert Fogarty
Excerpt from Community, Creativity, and Commemoration: A Celebration of Robert Fogarty Reunion 2005
Courtesy of Antiochiana
Robert Fogarty came to Antioch College in 1968 on a one-year contract to replace a faculty member on sabbatical. He stayed for a career, retiring from teaching on January 1, 2004, having influenced the lives and careers of many students and colleagues.
Bob stayed at Antioch for more than thirty-five years, through some of the best and some of the worst years in Antioch’s 155 year history. I have asked myself why he didn’t leave for a safer, more secure environment, and believe the answer is that he achieved a very high level of personal satisfaction from the students he taught and mentored (both those who sought and achieved academic success and those who followed other careers); the values inherent in the Antioch approach to education, including the co-op program, which contributed to a richer experience; the incredibly talented and diverse faculty and colleagues he had at Antioch; and the opportunity to edit The Antioch Review, one of the country’s leading literary journals.
On June 18, 2005, some of Bob’s former students and faculty colleagues gathered at Antioch College to honor his career as a teacher who influenced their lives. The concept was to address Bob’s accomplishments as a researcher and teacher, a writer, and his service to the Antioch community. Being Antiochians, the speakers took that structure as mere guidance, subject to their own interpretation and whims of the moment. And, being Bob’s students, they created and presented much more personal and meaningful perspectives than if they had remained within the confines of the structure. This modest publication assembles all but one of the short papers presented that day.
At a gathering Bob hosted the evening of the seminar, I raised with the group the slogan often seen on campus in the 1960s and 1970s (when most of us were Antioch students), and still seen on campus and in Yellow Springs (as at the local t-shirt stand), “Antioch – Bootcamp for the Revolution.” I did this deliberately to test my memory of a story I had heard in the late ’60s or very early 70s to see if his view had changed at all. My memory had not failed me, and Bob’s views had not changed. His distaste was palpable. At a faculty meeting he said something like “Antioch is not bootcamp for the revolution. It is a college, and there is a difference.” Somehow his words were perverted and ended up on a t-shirt. For many of us, the College was, and always should be, a place of learning. Its purpose is to provide an environment in which students can explore the intellectual side of things, find their niche, and begin their journey to the future.
For me, Bob not only brought American intellectual history alive, he gave me opportunities to teach and conduct research. He taught me to understand large, sweeping ideas and periods by focusing on individuals and groups and the roles they played in the period. Some twenty years after graduating, I was struck by a passage in a novel by Ellen Gilchrist: History is about people. And very often it is in the experience of a few people that we see the large issues of history most clearly. I knew that; Bob taught me that. Those of us who participated in the tribute represent a range of his students. Some of us pursued the academic path as Bob did, and represent the finest teachers and scholars to come from Antioch. Others pursued careers in public service, having developed a different passion but relying heavily on the guidance and knowledge received from Bob. More than anything else, he taught us to challenge everything we thought we knew, which ultimately led us to a deeper understanding of our worlds. We all are fortunate to have been his students.
Steve Benowit ’71, February 2007
RESPONSE Robert S. Fogarty
Let me first thank Betsey Jameson and Steve Benowitz for organizing this event and for the speakers for taking time out of their busy lives to spend a weekend in Yellow Springs. I am honored.
One of the first things that an historian learns is to distinguish between a fact, an opinion and an interpretation. Your interpretations of my impact on your careers and lives made me blush at times, but the eloquence with which you all delivered your remarks made me proud. Not to mention the good humor you all still possess given the fact that you graduated from this humor- I | challenged institution. I have survived Antioch in part because I have been able to keep my humor intact while it was deadly serious about silly matters. That the omphalos of the world was located in a small town in Ohio surrounded by pigs and corn struck me as a cosmic joke, particularly in light of the fact that its most inventive president, Arthur Morgan had, as his favorite beverage, a cup of hot water.
When I first arrived here in the summer of 1968 there were several things that struck me: one, that the buildings were capable of being levitated by the amount of marijuana in the air; two that the faculty was, by and large, quite capable, varied and feisty and the students were remarkably bright and responsive. I have dined out on stories about Antioch for my entire career and these were tales straight out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. One of my favorites was an incident that took place in the early seventies in a class on “American Urban History.” I was-as usual-scribbling something on the blackboard (like a series of numbers “4142334425059125” that indicate the stations on the “F” train in New York-urban iconography) or drawing a map of the United States that resembled a side of beef when a student-obviously in the middle of a psychotic break- came into the tightly packed classroom on the third floor of the Main Building where the history department held sway.
The distressed student began to mimic my style by pointing to the class and repeating what I said. I turned to him and asked that he leave the classroom and then I turned to the class and asked how many of them wanted him to stay. The class remained silent and not a single hand went up in the class of about 35. At that point in Antioch’s history just about every student had had a job working in some mental health facility or had worked with troubled people in some kind of setting. It would have been easy for some psychology or sociology majors (and there were plenty of them) to side with their fellow student (they had all read Goffman and Szasz), but they understood that things could get out of hand. The student who was having the psychotic break had not, however, lost all of his wits and had obviously been to a large number of political meetings. He quickly turned to me and demanded that I hold a secret ballot. With that I took him by the arm, led him out into the hall and found a dean of students to take care of him. Even in his distressed state he indicated a quickness of mind that was not uncommon in those heady days.
The students had acted responsibly and it was because of their co-op experience that led them to act in a manner to protect the sanctity of the classroom and the sanity of their professor. It was not always the case, but the history students were as a group bright, hard working and rigorous. During the lock out/strike of 1973 they all finished their senior projects under ghastly conditions (classes were held off-campus and the college was shut down for nine weeks while the administration “negotiated” with the strikers) and the history faculty (Hannah Goldberg, Frank Wong, Mike Kraus) all continued to teach and try to keep the students engaged as Catherine McHugh has indicated.
When I became editor of the Antioch Review in 1977 things began to change slightly as I divided my time between history and the magazine, which has had its own tumultuous history (another series of stories). But there were a number of talented students who worked for me as interns at the Review (like Laura Camozzi Berry). Throughout all these years I have been blessed to have solid colleagues (like Fred Hoxie and Barbara Davis) who took their own teaching seriously, required students to read primary sources and respected their students.
One of the things that I learned at Antioch was that it was essential to respect students, to treat them as individuals (not some prototypical “Antiochian”) and to suggest that doing research was actually fun and that reading and writing were noble activities that brought great rewards. There is a great deal of cant uttered about education and Antioch has had its fair share of cant-makers. Phrases like “innovation,” “change agents,” “students and faculty as co-learners” and currently “learning communities” (when was a serious college not one) trip off the tongues of administrators who fail to understand that the heart of an Antioch education can be found in the prophetic Book of Daniel where it says that “many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall increase.” Kim McQuaid, an indefatigable researcher and author, knows this better than anyone else since he helped me research an article for the Review on Change Magazine titled “A Nice Piece of Change.”
There was always talk about the “real world” (meaning anything that happened outside of Antioch) but many students (certainly the ones who spoke here) appreciated that the life of the mind was as real as anything else and certainly more real than-say-politics.
I have been fortunate to continue to have contact with many of my former students in part because I wanted to and because of the close bonds established between a teacher and a student, particularly if you supervise a hundred-page senior project. I share a birth date with Lester Lee, see Susan Guerrero (now with the New York Times) and George Judson (now with the San Francisco Chronicle) when I am in their cities, shared meals with Steve Benowitz when he was in Washington (and hope to continue that tradition after his move to Seattle), talk about professional concerns with Larry Foster and Betsey Jameson and have run into innumerable students in unlikely places like Mont-Saint-Michel or in London.
There I had a chance encounter with a particularly difficult student who had a brooding presence about him and would suddenly appear on my doorstep when I was talking with a colleague. He was so asocial that the co-op department had difficulty placing him on a job. On his first visit to discuss his senior project he announced that he had already come to his conclusions about his topic. I reminded him that it was usually the other way around. First you do the research and then you come to the conclusions. But I knew I was in for trouble.
As some of you know I have spent a great deal of time in London and Oxford over the years working on various projects. London is a city that I love and know well and I was startled to see this self-same brooding student at the other end of a train on the London underground several years after he graduated. There he was in the same car and as he approached me he asked in his characteristic backward manner: “What are you doing here?” He presumed that I was out of place (and may have been) given his own state of mind. I immediately got off at the next stop and fortunately I have yet to see him again, but you never know given the way some Antiochians get around.
Finally I want to say that my thirty-five years of teaching at Antioch have been rewarding because of the relationships that I have developed with students like the ones you have heard today-all accomplished in their own fields from finance to teaching to administration, all inventive about the work the do and all generous of their time and talents. These are the kinds of individuals who create a reputation for a college by their own independence, by their good humor and way that they live their lives.