Keep your eyes open for the September issue of The Blue & White, coming soon to campus. Until then, Bwog will honor our heritage/amorous affair with our mother magazine by posting highlights of the upcoming issue online. Among the treats to look forward to: a litany of bizarre and outdated freshman hazing rituals, a conversation with a luminary on DIY education, and a (half-fictional) account of romance in the John Jay dining hall. In Campus Characters, the Blue & Whiteintroduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. In the current issue, staff writer Liz Jacob profiles Nordic god incarnate Derek Turner, CC’12.
Derek Froeb Turner, CC ’12, is a sucker for the classics. Tall, blonde, and Nordic, the Scottsdale, AZ native’s timeless features mirror his appreciation for traditional institutions. Politically conservative and piously Christian, Derek sets himself apart from his predominantly liberal peers. Perhaps Derek’s beliefs inspire his fondness for one of the Core’s less-appreciated texts—St. Augustine’s Confessions. “I know people often joke about how Augustine worries about stealing those pears, but I really love how earnest he is. He just wants to do everything right.”
That earnestness is alive in Derek as well. Ask him about one of many topics that excite him, and you’ll notice. The way he throws his head back when he laughs, or gushes over Professor William Theodore de Bary mark his genuine enthusiasm. While his reluctance to criticize anyone can make his words sound overly politically correct, his thoughts are always sincere. As Kaley Hanenkrat, BC’11 and former Columbia Democrats president, puts it, “Being friends with Derek is like being friends with a politician who still has a soul.”
A card-carrying College Republican, Derek admits his peers rarely fall in with his politics. Fortunately, seeing directly eye-to-eye with his fellow Columbians is never Derek’s greatest concern. Rather, Derek’s main political aim has always been to promote discourse, understanding, and cooperation among fellow students.
To this end, Derek pens a Columbia Spectator column, “Opening Remarks,” in which he presents himself as “a courteous, though prodding, voice in the campus’ political dialogue.” Operating on a self-described philosophy of “close-mindedness,” Derek strongly maintains his political convictions in the effort to engage with, rather than criticize, the ideas of those who disagree with him. And despite his near-archetypal Republicanism (Hanenkrat describes him as a “a living, breathing stereotype of a Republican, including an affinity for bow ties and Brooks Brothers”), Derek insists he’s hardly ever met with an unkind word from more liberal peers.
Hanenkrat agrees. “The entirety of the past two Columbia Democrats’ boards had immense respect for him.” Citing last April’s controversial “anti-safe space” CUCR flyering campaign, Hanenkrat notes that Derek, the College Republicans’ Director of Intergroup Affairs, was integral in promoting understanding among campus groups during the Safe Space forum. Those upset by CUCR’s flyers “were completely amazed by how diplomatic and kind Derek had been.”
Though Derek argues they are not linked, he exhibits the same compromise in his faith as he does with his political beliefs. President of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a multi-faith organization, he argues that “there is no room to rely on tradition or culture—we come together around this experience of pursuing the divine in as unassuming of a way as possible, focusing on scripture as common ground.”
Similarly, by emphasizing understanding, Derek counts himself among what his beloved Jon Huntsman would call the Southwest’s “problem solving conservatives.” He favors pragmatism and bipartisanship, advocating conservatism with bold personality. “I ’m a conservative because I don’t believe that the US’s flourishing comes from the government, but rather from the unique ingenuity and attitude of our private citizenry.”
Belief in ingenuity fuels Derek’s entrepreneurial ambitions. An aspiring Venture for America fellow, Derek is eager to create jobs in under-served areas of the US. But his adventurous spirit is not bound to the States: with a passport stamped in India, Israel, Namibia, and Botswana, Derek says he’s currently looking for a friend to join him motorcycling across Mongolia. Asked if he knew how to ride a motorcycle, he laughed, “No, but that’s what winter break is for.”