His claim to fame also involves suspenders

Our last  Actual Wisdom takes a radical leap from professors to other really cool people at Columbia. Dean Peter Awn discusses the merits of monasteries, socks, and gives you your daily dose of soul (music).

1. Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer.

Solon claims you’re not counted happy until you’re in an urn. Sorry Solon; nihil humani mihi alienum est, and that makes me a very happy man…now.

2. Your claim to fame (what makes you special?):

My socks.

3. What’s your most valuable or unexpected college experience?

I was in a monastery, so I had no college experience, unexpected or otherwise. One of the humbler pleasures, perhaps, was when we didn’t have to speak Latin at dinner.

4. What’s the craziest student excuse/extension story you’ve heard?

My little sister ate the paper and had to be taken to the Emergency Room.

5. Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese?

Generally speaking, for men my age, you can’t ask whether to give it up unless you can get… your cholesterol checked regularly.

6. Back in my day…

There is no longer a homeless man living in the men’s bathroom in Kent who walked around naked when he was doing his laundry in the sink. I also miss being taken hostage on the 15th floor of SIPA during the anti-Shah protests in the late seventies. The hostage takers were more nervous than we were, which was touching. And then there were the years I could walk into class with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth……

7. Three things you learned at Columbia:

I never thought that I would be as passionate as I am about a Columbia education; that I would relish the privilege of being part of undergraduates’ lives at a time when they are putting their adult worldviews together; that you can walk out the front gates and have a life.

8. What’s your advice to students/academics/the human race in general?

The great philosopher, Aretha, hit it on the head: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I am also a great promoter of the value of being offended. Hopefully challenging and, yes, sometimes offensive ideas will force you to expand and/or nuance your intellectual horizons.

The ever-eloquent Awn via Alan Orling/Columbia