Monday, May 17, 2010

Tuesdays With Marty*

Ithaca College’s Class of 2010 graduates next week. The end of the school year also marks an end of an era as one of my favorite professors, Marty Brownstein, is retiring after 40 years at IC. During my first semester, I took Marty’s Introduction to Politics class. I remember fairly early in the semester answering a question about how not all the votes of individual Members of Congress were equal, and Marty walked up to me in this class of approximately 75 students and shook my hand. At that moment, I realized that I could make it in college.

Marty was one of the main reasons why I became a Politics major. I had no idea what I wanted to do then (or now), but I enjoyed Marty’s classes and was idealistic enough to think that maybe I could be part of the political system and help people. In reality, my politics classes improved my critical thinking and made me a significantly better writer (though this is debatable depending on what posts you read). In my second semester, I took Marty’s Media & Politics class which was fascinating at the time, though I wonder how much the class has changed in the age of 24-hour news/political television stations and the internet. Judging on a recent video of Marty from this class, Chauncey Gardiner and Being There remain a significant part of this course’s curriculum. (This is a good thing.)

As a Sophomore, I took Marty’s Model Senate course where each member of the class played the role of a Senator. In one of the first classes, everyone pulled a number out of a hat in order to choose your Senator. Yes, we had a fantasy Senator Draft! In true Senate spirit, Marty encouraged us to negotiate trades. I was lucky to choose #3, which would have been meant the Senate Majority Leader, Minority Leader, or another high-ranking member. Instead, I traded my #3 for the #17-pick and $75. Although the guy only ended up paying me $50, this was the equivalent of working 10 hours in the dining hall. With the #17-pick, I selected Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont and shared the virtues of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and the Grateful Dead. Actually, I wrote arguably my best paper about Senator Leahy earning one of the few A grades in the class for the particular assignment. In hind-sight, I should have taken this mock Senate class as a Senior as I was slightly intimidated by the Juniors and Seniors in the class and didn’t speak out as much as I should have. However, I took the class because Marty was the instructor.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to take any other classes from Marty, he remained a part of my collegiate life. He served as my advisor when I declared my major and participated in the greatest residence hall program ever about the 1996 election. Marty’s energy and enthusiasm were infectious. You always wanted to attend his classes as they were fun, interesting and never boring. I feel bad that future Ithaca College students won’t have the opportunity to have Marty as a professor, though I am proud to be one of the thousands that have. I wish Marty all the best in retirement.

As a postscript, I worked as a Volunteer Coordinator in my last job. At one particular event, a volunteer complained to me about a number of things, and I just tried to calm him down as he started getting more and more upset as chaos surrounded us. He noticed an Ithaca College sticker on my desk and asked me if I attended the school. When I replied yes, he asked if I knew Marty Brownstein. It turned out that this individual was related to Marty. When I shared my positive experiences of Marty, his demeanor quickly changed and I was the volunteer’s new best friend.

Please read more about Marty's career via The Ithacan.

* I apologize for the terrible title.

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