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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Lefkowitz ’85 recalls tunnels and camaraderie

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Have you ever met a Carleton professor who graduated from Carleton? With 19 former Carls now teaching at Carleton, you likely have. Between visiting lecturers and tenured professors, Carleton attracts a fair number of its own back to campus. And as alumni often do, these faculty members tend to have a few good stories. I interviewed a handful of these former Carls and asked them about their experiences on each side of the lectern.

My first interview was with David Lefkowitz ’85, studio art major and now an associate professor in the Studio Art department. I found Professor Lef kowitz in his sizeable studio behind Farm House, working on one of his current projects – painting the broken pictures of a television experiencing satellite interference. Classic Rock poured out from speakers hidden behind a clutter of art projects, and accompanied our interview.

Taylor Gee: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen at Carleton, from the day you arrived till now?

David Lefkowitz: In some ways, some of the biggest changes are not unique to Carleton. It’s about social media and access to technology. When I was here, nobody even had phones in their rooms. The way that you could call anybody, there would be a couple phones in the hall, and just anybody who happened to be around when it rang would have to pick it up. Everybody had a bulletin board on their door, and you would have to write messages. In a way it was sort of annoying, but in a way it forced the floor to know one another, which could be a good or bad thing.

TG: What building were you in freshman year?

DL: I was lucky, I was in Nourse. I actually lived in Nourse for three of my four years. It was a great floor life – I lived in a triple. I am still in touch with my freshman floormates. In fact, one of my two roommates– four or five years ago– donated a kidney to the other. It was unbelievable. So we actually rallied our class to help support the donor, because you know you have to be out of work for a couple months. It was very cool that our class provided that support for him.

TG: And could you have at all predicted that you would find yourself here again?

DL: Back then? No! Not at all. It’s sort of funny. I mean, I had a great time at school here, but it never occurred to me that this would be the place I would be stuck forev [breaks into laughter]. It’s a great gig. It’s a great place to be. But I didn’t anticipate that. I came in interested in art; I also thought about majoring in geo and I took a lot of geology classes too. But I ended up being an art major, and I feel incredibly lucky I have been able to relay it into a life and a living.

TG: Is there anything that you see now and think, “Well that hasn’t changed one bit since I was here as a freshman”?

DL: I think some of the things that appealed to me in the first place that I like best about it, is that the student body is both smart and rigorous but also there is a spirit of playfulness. I like to think of it as a kind of ‘pretentious unpretentiousness’ – like we try really hard to show how casual we are [laughs]. I think that kinda persists, and I think that’s some of the most important things about Carleton. I’m not sure its unique to Carleton – a lot of small liberal arts colleges have that kind of camaraderie.

TG: Is there anyone from when you were a student who is also still on campus?

DL: Well, there are four faculty members who was in my class. In Chemistry, Dave Alberg and Gretchen Hofmeister were classmates of mine, and Mike McNally in Religion.

TG: Has being here as a faculty member for longer than you were a student vastly changed your perspective of Carleton? Do you see it in a different lens?

DL: Well, yeah, there were certainly things I was oblivious to. Even just administration and politics of faculty, just college business I wasn’t really cognizant of.

Things that I see as improvements now is that Carleton is a lot more ethnically diverse than it used to be. When I was a student it was pretty white–not entirely so–and barely any international presence, and now there is a lot. Relatively speaking. And I think that’s been a strength. I worry a little because of the high costs. I mean, the costs of all colleges have gone up, but it’s like five or six times more to go to Carleton than it was when I was a student.

TG: Any good stories that students might funny or interesting?

DL: One thing that is too bad that it doesn’t exist anymore – in some ways it’s too bad, in some ways it’s understandable – is when you used to be able to take the tunnels on the entire east side of campus. There was a dining hall in Evans, and I lived in Nourse, so you could go breakfast in your pajamas in the middle of winter. It was great.

So the funny thing is that friends and I did a lot of paintings in the tunnels. We did a lot of extracurricular artwork. And when the tunnels closed, it sort of preserved our era of tunnel artwork. At reunion they sometimes open them up and you could wander through, and there is still stuff there. Like there is a twister board that is sort-of famous tunnel art, which my roommates and I painted just on a lark.

TG: So anybody could just go and paint in the tunnel?

DL: Yeah, yeah. It was like this graffiti/canvas that some people would use as graffiti space and some people would be more considered [sic] about their output.

This is the first of a series of interviews with alumni who are now Carleton professors. Our next installment will be in our ninth week issue.

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