Friday, March 21, 2008

"Back to School"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Even though I partied so much in college that I graduated magna cum lager, I went to class often enough that I still have a dream that is common among people who subconsciously recall the old alma mater. It starts with a beautiful co-ed in a filmy negligee – oops, sorry, wrong dream!

The one I mean begins with me sitting in a lecture hall where I am about to be given a test I didn’t study for. After I wake up in a cold sweat, I wonder what would happen – aside from bankruptcy, considering the cost of tuition these days – if I went back to college.

I found out recently when I enrolled in One Day University, a traveling institution of higher learning that allows people who are thirsty for knowledge, if not beer, to spend a day taking college classes without having to take tests that will come back to haunt them in their dreams.

This presentation of One Day University was given on the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University in Brookville, N.Y. When I entered Hillwood Lecture Hall, I was greeted by Steven Schragis, a Tufts University graduate who co-founded One Day University.

"Did you bring your homework?" Schragis asked.

"My dog ate it," I replied.

This did not affect my scholarship – Schragis waived the $219 fee because I am a newspaper columnist and therefore was considered a hardship case – but it did prove that while I have a B.A. in political science, I have a B.S. in life.

I am a 1975 graduate of Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., where I got a great education despite being on the dishonor roll for four years. But because I also am an encyclopedia of useless information (I can proudly say that I am one of the world’s leading authorities on the Three Stooges), I thought it would be beneficial to go back to school so I could learn something that might actually do me some good.

One of my classmates at One Day University was Jayme Wolfson, a friend and co-worker who graduated from C.W. Post in 1979. "I’m having flashbacks!" Jayme said as we took our seats in the third row of the large hall.

Since she was the only student I knew in the class of more than 200, I asked if I could cheat off of her. "Sure," Jayme said. "If you want to flunk."

Fortunately, that wasn’t possible because there were no exams, which meant I was guaranteed to get an A in all four 70-minute classes. "In college," I told Jayme, "I had a 4.0 average, but it was on a scale of 100."

The first class, taught by John Tomasi, a professor of political science at Brown University, was "Capitalism and Wealth Inequality – John Locke and the Birth of the American Dream."

Tomasi gave such a compelling lecture that there was no giggling, no note passing and, most impressive, no spitball shooting. He spoke with authority and wit about Locke, the 17th-century English philosopher who famously wrote, "God gave the world to the industrious, not to the lazy," which explains my sad lot in life.

The second class, taught by Anne Nelson, an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University, was "The Untold History of Resistance in Nazi Germany."

It was an eye-opening presentation, which means I did not, as sometimes happened when I was an undergraduate, fall asleep. Nelson’s well-researched stories of bravery and heroism were sad, illuminating and, ultimately, inspiring.

After lunch in the cafeteria, where I resisted the urge to start a food fight, we all went back to the lecture hall for the third class, "Words and Where They Come From," which was taught by Joshua Katz, an associate professor of classics at Princeton University.

This was my favorite lecture because Katz opened with the Latin phrase "In vino veritas." Translation: "In wine there is truth." He also used philology (not, as I thought, the study of guys named Phil) to explain the ancient linguistic derivation of the English phrase "Thank you very much, Bob!"

One Day University director of group sales and "dean of students" Bob Sadin replied by saying, in English, "You’re welcome, Joshua!"

The last class, "The Industrialization of Everything We Eat," was taught by Gabriella Petrick, an assistant professor of food studies at New York University. It was, of course, food for thought. And it was served with relish, a welcome ingredient because one of the main parts of Petrick’s lecture was a learned discourse on iceberg lettuce.

I can now say with great pride that I am a 2008 graduate of One Day University (more info at In fact, I feel so smart that I’d like to be a lecturer. My class will be called "The Three Stooges 101."

Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima

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