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A half-century of teaching

By Audrey Sapunarich 

Harpur College began in 1946 as Triple Cities College of Syracuse University in Endicott and became the liberal arts school of the newly established State University of New York in 1950. By 1965, Harpur College had moved to Vestal and officially become a part of what we now call Binghamton University.

A lot has changed about Harpur College in the past 50 years, but Anthony Preus and Sandro Sticca have remained a constant. Each marked their half-century anniversary as a Harpur College faculty member in 2015.

   Anthony Preus 

Anthony Preus
Distinguished teaching professor of philosophy and master of College-in-the-Woods

Q: What are your areas of specialty or expertise?
A: "Ancient Greek philosophy, primarily. I have also taught Medical Ethics and a number of other courses. I'm teaching two courses in the fall, HARP 101: How to Be a Professional and CDCI 395: Feeding a Hungry World, which is a service-learning course."

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?
A: "For many years I did a lot of hiking. Years ago I played string bass--for example, in the University Orchestra and at one time with the Binghamton Symphony. Recently my life has centered pretty much entirely on work and family."

Q: What was your first impression of Harpur College?
A: "When I first came, the impression was that it was a small liberal arts college. It was really direct in it being high-quality liberal arts. There had been a serious effort to get high-quality faculty in a wide range of liberal-arts subjects; therefore we attracted a lot of really good students. Ralph Rishel was the director of admissions and he made a serious attempt to go to all the top-notch high schools and recruit like crazy, and it had an effect on the school that lasted until today. Here we are, 50 years later and it has continued."

Q: What has been the biggest change to the University over these 50 years?
A: "Obviously the growth in numbers of students, but also the increasing emphasis on graduate study, and on professional schools. When I was a graduate student, people used to ask whether I wanted to teach at a small liberal arts college or a big university. As it turns out, I started at one and finished at the other, without moving."

Q: Who has inspired you?
A: "Stewart Gordon, the first dean of Harpur College. He was hard-nosed but fair and he had a lot to do with creating and preserving the liberal-arts character of Harpur."

Q: What is your favorite course that you've taught?
A: "In some sense, my favorite course is whichever I'm teaching at the moment. I think in some ways my teaching is driven by my own curiosity about the subjects I'm dealing with. The relationship with students is a very different one from the curiosity of the subject matter though. Plato says: 'The problem with books is they keep telling you the same thing all the time and then you ask them a question and they can't answer it.' Teaching really does require personal contact."

Q: What is your impression of Harpur College students?
A: "It has always been the case that Harpur College students were very smart and prepared. These are students who have high school averages in the high 90s and super SATs, but they don't have the means to go to [private schools]. They're motivated and it's nice to teach motivated students."

Q: Can you sum up your 50 years in one sentence?
"You're kidding, right?"

   Sandro Sticca 

Sandro Sticca
Professor of French and comparative literature

Q: What are your areas of specialty or expertise?
A: "Romance philology, French and Italian medieval and renaissance literature, classical and medieval Latin literature, and 20th-century French literature, especially theater. My hometown is Tocco de Casauria, Italy. In the United States, I decided to study English because I fell in love with the English language and its writers."

Q: What are your hobbies?
A: "I started playing soccer when I was 4 or 5. Even at this age, I play soccer with
a group of friends, all running desperately after our youth. I earned a green belt in karate years ago with Mr. Hidy Ochiai. At the scholarly level, I have written eight monographs and 24 books. Two were just published. I also founded three journals: Mediaevalia, Studies in Christian Thought and Tradition, and Studia Italica."

Q: What was your first impression of Harpur College?
A: "I was awed by the academic strength of the college and also by the preparedness of the students, and the intellectual caliber of the faculty. At that time, we were on a trimesters system. The first course I taught was literature and composition. We started with the classics and then Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Shakespeare and others within the major European languages — Italian, French, English and Spanish."

Q: What has been the largest change to the University in these 50 years?
A: "The physical and intellectual dimension, but most of all, the national and international reputation it acquired, attracting many students both from our nation and from abroad."

Q: Who has inspired you?
"Former Vice President of Academic Affairs Norman Cantor, former Dean Sheldon Grebstein, and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Nieman because of their ability both to administer and to relate to faculty. Also, I met John F. Kennedy in Syracuse at my graduation. He was a senator at the time but everybody said he would be president. Having graduated with highest honors, I was chosen to give him a short tour of the library. He addressed me in a gracious manner, telling me to persevere in my chosen profession and to write him. I still have the original letter from him. He invited me to breakfast at the White House, but he never returned from Dallas..."

Q: What is your favorite course that you've taught?
"Romance philology, which is the transformation of Latin into six romance languages; Middle Ages and Renaissance, and 20th-century French literature."

Q: What is your impression of Harpur College students?
A: "Unquestionably enormously gifted and well-prepared since high school. They are a delight to teach. Many of my books have been the result of exciting discussions [with students] in my graduate courses."

Q: Can you sum up 50 years in one sentence?
A: "An intellectual journey in which I have both taught and learned."

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Last Updated: 3/1/17