Ron Herzman and Eugene Stelzig have both earned the rank of distinguished teaching professors at Geneseo. And as colleagues, scholars and friends, there is perhaps no more fitting a term than distinguished.
Herzman came to work at Geneseo in 1969, and Stelzig followed three years later. Save for a few brief sabbaticals spent researching and the time they both spent developing a program for the National Endowment of Humanities, the two have worked together in the English department for over 30 years. Both have been chairs of their department. "And in addition to being in the same department," Herzman noted, "when we were young faculty members, there was an interesting tradition of playing basketball on Saturday mornings." These games marked the beginning of both their friendship and, according to Herzman, the group that would ultimately develop the Humanities courses at Geneseo.
Herzman and Stelzig have both developed a warm sentiment towards Geneseo, where they have spent their career and developed a friendship over the past decades. "I enjoy being in Western New York - the Finger Lakes, the small college, the rural setting," Stelzig said, adding that with several cities so accessible, "it seems to be the best of both worlds." Herzman said, "On the whole, this is a friendly and good environment where we get really, really good students."
The decades they have spent as colleagues have led them to a similar place in the faculty of Geneseo. "We're both survivors of some really tough times in the 70s at this college," Stelzig said, referring to large budget cuts coupled with a malignant administration. "It's very painful to see a well-qualified colleague losing his position for no doing of his own," Stelzig said, to which Herzman added that "these were people who were really good in the classroom, and if they were around today, they'd be jewels in the crown of the college." Fortunately, they said, the administration has changed for the better.
Herzman and Stelzig have witnessed other changes to the school as well and, according to Herzman, "have a similar take on the way that the school has evolved." Stelzig has found that students have less time to read in the face of distractions in Geneseo's upscale environment. "One of the big changes," he said, "is the omnipresence of the computer." Herzman agreed that Geneseo has built itself up in competition for the youth of America. "We don't have dorms anymore, we have residence halls. There are many more food options. The grounds are kept better."
In addition to their position on the faculty, the two professors are also distinguished scholars, researching, analyzing, reviewing and writing introductions to classic texts and authors. "Professors almost have a separate life as scholars," Stelzig said. Scholarship, which stands in the judgment of fellow experts, "keeps you at the top of your game," Herzman explained. However, he also noted the importance of making their scholarly research "interesting, accessible and ultimately fun," for students who are less informed. Herzman's latest article on Dante, for example, started as a lesson and discussion in a Geneseo classroom.
Over the years Herzman and Stelzig have created fond memories of the past and positive outlooks for the future. Of the faculty, Herzman said that "Geneseo is a different place, and a core of faculty members have helped bring that about." Of the students, Stelzig explains that "We are hitting into the later stages of life, and watching younger people, whose lives are all before them, brings with it a sort of drama and poetry."
Of each other, the friendship speaks for itself. Merely watching them interact reveals a bond of mutual respect and admiration, without a trace of insincerity. They communicate in a way that is both heartfelt and humorous, without putting on a show for each other or anyone else.