One of the most pivotal choices in my life was to attend Grove City College, and by mere accident end up under the influence of Dr. Hans Sennholz. As I have posted before, Grove City College honored me in 2005 with the Jack Kennedy Memorial Alumni Achievement Award. Rosemary and I attended the Homecoming and had an absolutely wonderful time visiting the college, reconnecting with old friends and professors, and were most impressed with meeting the current students. The campus is still beautiful and the new buildings are impressive to say the least.
To read my remarks given at the awards ceremony read further.
30 September 2005
Remarks for GCC Alumni Award Ceremony
It is a great honor for me to receive this award from Grove City College. I am thankful everyday that I attended Grove City College and absorbed the life lessons that my experience here offered me. As I reflect back on my student days one of the most striking features of my education at Grove City was that my professors taught me so much more than I was prepared to learn at the time that I was their student. But as the years went by I realized how much they had in fact taught me.
I was a late bloomer when it came to academics. I always had an aptitude for school, but had no desire to be focused on school. I can remember 4 courses in high school where I actually thought school work made sense: (a) Geometry, (b) biology, (c) AP history, and (d) English. I headed off to college --- Thiel College --- with one thing in mind --- to play college basketball and get a job coaching high school basketball after graduating. My experience at Thiel was very disappointing. The basketball program was at that time in very bad shape, and I suffered a season ending injury within the first weeks of practice that fall and academically I struggled due to lack of interest combined with poor study habits. Fortunately, at Thiel I met Glen Salow who was the assistant coach and had played for Athletes in Action and he encouraged me to transfer to Grove City College. As fortune would have it, Rosemary (my high school sweetheart and now wife) was going to attend GCC, so I started the transfer process. I was accepted without much knowledge of the school --- except that Coach Barr had established a strong winning tradition and that the school had lots of rules. My father’s one condition was that I pursue a business education course of study in case coaching didn’t work out then at least I would have the business background to pursue a more lucrative career.
Once at GCC, my life would take various different twists and turns and I had the great fortune to meet wonderful professors and coaches, and make a wide diversity of friends. From Dr. Sennholz I learned economics and political economy; from Dr. Sparks I learned the love of argument; from Drs Hoffecker and Treml I learned to appreciate philosophical discussion; and from Dr. Reed Davis I learned to love books, especially classic ones.
My athletic endeavors included crushing failures, and modest successes, but I learned much at GCC that has stayed with me. From Coach Barr I understood the value of pride in performance, and from Coach Walters I learned the value of being aggressive rather than tentative. I never did get to play basketball for Coach Barr because of recurring injuries and my 2 year frustration at pursuing my goal of playing college basketball came to an end. I was fortunate to find a sports outlet in Coach Walter’s tennis program. As I am sure the community at Grove City College realizes, the school has an outstanding tennis program and Coach Walters has actually amassed a record at GCC that is among the elite in the NCAA D3 (including 15 consecutive championships and close to 300 wins). Coach Walters message to the young men that played tennis under him was that the best defense was to be the aggressor. When I taught tennis professionally after graduating from college, it was this basic lesson that I stressed to the competitive junior players that I worked with. Always be ready to take the offensive and don’t let your opponent dictate the action. It is a lesson that I have tried to take from athletics and applied it in my academic life and the competitiveness Coach Walters encouraged in his players enabled me to approach my academic work with aggressive attitude and a can-do spirit.
Dr. Sennholz obviously had the biggest impact on me. His impact on me transformed my career goads and his teachings are so deeply ingrained in me in what I do professionally. His lectures are burned in my memory -- they inspire me (I still read regularly his columns on his web site). From Professor Sennholz I learned that academic economics is not just a game to be played by clever people, but instead that the discipline of economics is about enduring truths which must be communicated to students and the everyman, and applied in the policy disputes of the day.
Dr. Sparks taught his law courses in a Socratic seminar fashion and he had a twinkle in his eye when he would spin from his position by the window and turn to you with an argument. I wasn’t always prepared back then to respond, but I did appreciate what he did. And his obvious love of argument and quick wittedness have continually impressed me. Dr. Reed Davis (now a professor at Seattle Pacific University) taught my Religion and Philosophy core course was an absolutely wonderful professor and we read all these great books in the history of western civilization. The critique of scientism that I first learned in his class has been a main subject of my research as a professional economist. Drs. Hoffecker and Treml raised serious and deep philosophical issues in their classes and they prepared me well for my own ventures into professional philosophy in graduate school and after.
Grove City College taught me well. As I said to begin, I learned more from my education there than what was reflected in my scholastic performance between 1979-1983. But this also reflected a basic economic point --- life is full of trade-offs. I enjoyed myself tremendously at Grove City --- I was president of my fraternity (Adelphikos), I played tennis for 4 years, I was able to participate in Professor Sennholz’s “graduate seminar”, and I was able to share all of this with my life partner Rosemary in the disciplined and safe environment that is Grove City College. We started dating in high school, got engaged during our freshman year, and got married 2 weeks after graduating from Grove City. She inspired me to learn in school and pursue my intellectual passions afterward. She has stood besides me with each twist and turn that has been followed in pursuing an academic career. We have two wonderful boys (Matthew 17 and Stephen 14) and have finally settled down in Fairfax, VA (after living in Michigan, NJ, California, NY and NJ).
Thank you very much for this award. I am so grateful for the education I received there inside and outside of the classroom. Rosemary and I are extremely proud of being graduates of Grove City College and the great success the college has enjoyed in the years since we graduated. And we both wish continued success for our college and its graduates.