Professor reflects on 41 years of educating

After teaching and administrating within the English department for 41 years, professor Dennis Lebofsky is preparing for his retirement at the end of the semester.The Philadelphia native not only met his wife at Temple as an undergraduate student, but four of his five children have Temple degrees. Four of his children’s spouses have at least one degree from Temple as well, Lebofsky said.”I think what makes him unique among other professors is his knack of understanding who we are as individuals. He shows a very personal interest in his students,” said Elizabeth Wright, a former student of Lebofsky’s. “Most professors disinterestedly go through the motions, but I think he is sincere about learning who we are.”Earlier this year, a ceremony was held for Lebofsky in honor of being this year’s recipient of the Stauffer Award, the university’s top honor for distinguished and excellent faculty service. Award winners are nominated by each school and then finalized by the Board of Trustees on the General Alumni Association.Lebofsky said the most special thing about the Stauffer Award was discovering that William Rossky, his professor and mentor as an undergraduate student, had received the same award 25 years before. Rossky was also responsible for introducing Lebofsky to his future wife.”As soon as I saw the list of faculty members who won the award in the past … you might say it did the opposite of break my heart,” Lebofsky said. “It warmed my heart. That made it all the more touching, and it means so much more than the money prize.”Lebofsky said he is “nostalgic” for the university’s past and remembers a time when Temple was primarily a school for Philadelphians. He also said that he loves that the student body is so much more diverse than it was when he was a student.”My absolute favorite … part of Temple is the students, for sure,” Lebofsky said. “They are not pampered. They know what it’s like [to] work hard. They have conscientious and inquiring minds.”Lebofsky has worked as director of the first-year writing program since 1985. He has overseen and managed the construction of the courses through the many changes in curriculum within the department and university.”He’s been a person devoted to the first-year writing program,” Dr. Susan Wells, the chair of the English department, said of Lebofsky. “He’ll be missed dearly, but he loves spending time with his grandchildren. It would be mean to do anything but rejoice for him.”Lebofsky has 11 grandchildren and one more soon on the way. He likes for them to call him ‘Zayde,’ meaning grandpop in Yiddish. “My wife wanted to be called ‘Grammy’. That’s just too Anglo-Saxon for my style,” he said.Bill Breitmaier, a Senior Scholar, was a student of Lebofsky’s for a course in linguistics during the fall 2006 semester.”Since I was about [Lebofsky’s] age, I felt like an insider to some of his observations and wry jokes about the younger classmates and their linguistic differences with our generations,” Breitmairer said. “He also passed around old school test papers from his children and grandchildren to illustrate a point he was making about the difficulties of learning the English language. His course in linguistics proved to be even more than as advertised in the course description.”English professor Eli Goldblatt will be taking over as the director of the first-year writing program this summer. Lebofsky said he is confident in Goldblatt’s leadership. Some changes may include taking students out of the classroom and teaching within the community by serviced learning, putting on Shakespeare plays and starting newspapers in high schools.This program will be a part of the Institute for Literature, Literacy and Culture – a program that Goldblatt has devoted much time and energy toward building.Lebofsky said that he would like to spend much of his time reading when he retires.”I want to read Dickens’ long novels,” Lebofsky said. “I also want to reread some books, like the Merchant of Venice. Am I going to learn anything new? Probably not, but I’m going to read them anyway.”He also said that he wants to travel during the spring or fall for once rather than “when it’s snowing or when it’s 95 degrees outside,” as he had for many years.Megan Kelsey can be reached at megan.kelsey@temple.edu.

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