Professors happy to settle in Kent

Ben Wolford

As an aspiring young writer, this place often seems boring to me. Having visited the great cities of the American Northeast and Europe, it’s a natural inclination to view Kent as humdrum.

I don’t mean to sound like Emma Bovary. I don’t harbor any contempt for my experience here, but I can’t help idealizing what an extended habitation in a world city must be like.

I grew up in the Midwest, and now I’m ready to thank it kindly and leave.

That’s why I was curious about some of the brilliant professors who have come here and stayed — people who’ve tasted the energy of the city and the profoundness of international travel and yet found a home in Kent and a community at Kent State.

Robert Stadulis situated his family in Kent for just that reason: the strong community.

I vaguely knew Stadulis, a still-teaching professor emeritus in exercise science and sport studies, before meeting with him for this column. Our paths had crossed at the Newman Center, his son taught me world history at Lake High School and I spent time in El Salvador with a group that included his wife.

But he e-mailed me last week to offer his story, and we talked about it yesterday.

He grew up in New York City, going to high school in Lower Manhattan and attending graduate school at Columbia University. He married and they moved west, where he taught at Mankato State College (now Minnesota State University-Mankato).

New York City, he said, becoming increasingly unsafe, was not a place he wanted to raise kids.

In 1973 he came to Kent State because a job had opened up and because Northeast Ohio is half the distance to his three young children’s grandparents in New York.

Now he’s in his 38th year here.

“There was always a sense of community here at the university … There’s a sense of camaraderie,” he said. “Faculty and staff got along with each other and did things together; for example, I was in a faculty bowling league.”

His colleagues welcomed him and empowered him even as a young professor.

I also had the pleasure this weekend to visit with one who’s surely among the best professors at Kent State. Lewis Fried, a professor of English, invited me for coffee, and I slipped in a question about how he felt moving to Kent after also growing up around New York City.

“Brilliant people are brilliant wherever you are,” he said.

It’s a matter of locating them and befriending them. Kent State, it seems, has a strong, welcoming community among the ranks of its faculty.

I was interested to learn that Dr. Stadulis knows Dr. Fried. More and more I’m seeing that professors here know each other and respect each other across departments — my English Studies professor apparently knows my philosophy professor and so on.

A university that’s any good should be like that. Another point for Kent State.

Ben Wolford is a senior newspaper journalism major and the editor of the Daily Kent Stater. E-mail him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @BenWolford.