Tag Archives: obituary

“Blue-Collar Journal: A College President’s Sabbatical” by John Royston Coleman

I haven’t read this book, but I know its good. How? I heard the author speak, shortly after the book was published in 1974. And the gist of his story stayed with me so clearly that I spotted his obituary in the New York Times last week (September 9, 2016)! John Coleman died at age 95, after a life of intellectual adventure and social activism.

Coleman was the first non-Quaker president of Haverford College, serving from 1967 to 1977. In the middle of that period, he took a sabbatical and worked as a garbage collector, ditch digger and salad chef. As President of Haverford, he abolished football (I heartily approve), encouraged antiwar protests and campaigned for coeducation, eventually resigning when the College’s Trustees wouldn’t open the doors to women. (They did so shortly thereafter.)

If you want to read Blue-Collar Journal, good luck. My local libraries don’t have it. I’m sure Interlibrary Loan would come through. Amazon has a few copies, but at $156.87 I won’t buy it. I hope a Kindle version will be offered soon.

Interestingly, I found another book entitled Blue Collar Journal available on Amazon. It’s by one Richard Cronborg, a retired heavy equipment operator who seems to have jumped, upon retirement, into blogging, Facebook, poetry and self-publishing. I doubt the two authors ever met. But what wonderful gifts their writings are!

Oliver Sacks (1933 – 2015) Rest in Peace

Oliver Sacks died today. We are fortunate that we can look forward to the posthumous publication of works in progress or from his voluminous journals. I reviewed his recently published autobiography on August 24.

His obituary in the New York Times states “Dr. Sacks variously described his books and essays as case histories, pathographies, clinical tales or ‘neurological novels.’ ”

I like “pathographies”. If anyone deserves a neologism, it is Oliver Sacks. In fact, he can have a whole genre, ‘neurological novels’.

In Sacks’s memory, I plan to read Musicophila, in the expanded version published in 2008. And maybe increase my daily intake of Mozart.

In a recent New York Times article (August 14), Sacks described his state of mind as he faced death. “I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.”

The only other author I have encountered with such skill at finding and telling stories is Robert Coles, who wrote The Call of Stories and The Spiritual Life of Children. I’m pleased to report that Coles is still alive, now aged 85.