1. What things are most important to you now and why?
You start off with an easy question. Right now, the most important thing to me, besides my family which is always first in my heart, is finishing up a year sabbatical off an on between Versailles and other chinese cities. I am hoping to finish up a book by the summer that develops my field work and then i plan to go back to teaching for one more year at the university of kentucky.
2. How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life?
I actually think that they have been fairly steady over my 74 years of life. I developed an early ambition to become a college teacher, managed to go to Syracuse University and then to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I got my doctorate in political sciences and then I came here. You are now meeting the former chair of the department. I stepped down in June to take a 4 year sabbatical. So my dreams have been both very simple and very grand. I hope to be a good father, a wonderful husband, a very good teacher and researcher. All of those dreams have moved me along 48 years teaching at the University of Kentucky. I have been very pleased to be elected to serve as various faculty leadership positions. I have received a distinguished professional award so those dreams are related to my employment … I have three wonderful children who are still looking to find their way, at least 2 of them. I have a lovely wife who is a musician and who really compliments my interest in politics and social sciences. So we go home in the evening we don't talk about politics all the time. I would hate to live in a family where politics was the only things you talked about. My dreams have been pretty steady. I was the oldest of 7 in my family, an italian polish family. My parents lived to be in their late 80’s so I had the enjoyment of loving them for a very very long time. I’m a pretty happy guy.
3. What is the most difficult thing that has ever happened to you and how did you deal with it?
That's a little bit hard. My first wife had breast cancer, we had two children at the time, and her prognosis went up and then down. She had a mastectomy, I was there with her and for her. The disease returned and spread and went all around the place. She had many many operations. She was only 33 and wanted to live for her children and ultimately that was not to be. Her final wish was that she would die in bed in my arms, and the day before I had to put her in the hospital, she passed away.
4. How do define a “good life”?
A good life is discovering what you want to be and then succeeding in being able to do it. I had a high school math and chemistry teacher who was my early mentor. He grew up during the depression. He believed that his destiny was to be a doctor, and that was not possible under his circumstances. So he went on to get a degree in teaching and became a math and chemistry teacher in my high school. Ultimately went into administration for a while but he was always wistful about what might have been. I took that as an important lesson. That is, don’t give up on your dreams and I count myself just absolutely joyous I have been able to live such a long life, to do what I wanted to do, and to get those modest awards that go with teaching. Certainly touching the lives, I think I did a back of the envelope count of 8 to 10 thousand students over 48 years, is not a small achievement. And I am operating under the belief or illusion that most of them really enjoyed my classes.
5. What do you see as your place or purpose in life?
I think my place and purpose in life, aside from trying to be a good father and good husband, is to be a voice for the environment and to try to kindle in the hearts and minds of a fair amount of people, the importance of cleaning up the environment, building sustainable cities, and pulling back from the lurking possibilities of ecological catastrophe coming from climate change. That hope is a large hope, and I am only one person but being a teacher, doing research, being a community voice in Lexington and Versailles, provides me with different forms so I can try and move that huge rock a little bit further and convince people that the most important thing that we have to do in this world at this time is to make peace with nature.
6. How long have you lived in Versailles?
I have lived in Versailles for about 5 years. We had a big house in Lexington, our kids had all scattered, and we didn’t know what to do with 5 or 6 bedrooms at the time, so we looked for a smaller one. I always had a positive view of Versailles. A lot of friends and colleagues live here and I was impressed by the fact that every now and then there had been reference to improve the environment and sustainability programs here in the area. And the fact that Versailles is blessed with so many farms, including horse farms, means that there is a natural constituency to think about those sorts of issues.