Thursday, February 28, 2008

February 28, 2008

Professor extended learning from lecture hall to dining hall
Amy L. CornellCommunity columnist |
February 28, 2008

I received the news a few weeks ago of the death of an old friend and a favorite IU professor, Irving Katz. I am sad that generations of IU students will not get the pleasure of learning from this amazing man.

I met him because he sat on a search committee for a position that brought me back to IU after a few years away. I started my new job, and we agreed to have lunch every Friday in the residence dining halls where I worked.

Every week, we talked history, politics, current events and family. He loved to tell me stories of his class and how he taught freshmen to behave in a large lecture. He made them put newspapers and earphones away. He made fun of the kids who fell asleep by whispering and pointing them out to the other students. He talked often of his young life growing up on the lower east side of Manhattan, a poor Jewish kid whose parents left Poland before the Nazis rounded them up. Irving often reflected sadly that the rest of his family was killed in concentration camps in Europe during the war.

Irving appreciated undergraduate students in a way many professors at a research institution do not. At every lunch, Irving loved holding court with his students. He used the question, “Do you know what your last name means?” as an ice breaker with the residents who gathered around us, and it worked every time. He understood a lot of languages so he could often guess at the derivation of a surname.

The most amazing part of this name game was that if he did not know where a student’s name came from, he would remember to look it up in the Dictionary of Surnames in his office. The following week, when he came to lunch, he would have the meaning of that name scribbled on a piece of paper. He never forgot to follow up with a student to whom he made a promise.

In addition to his weekly meals with me, he dined regularly with the women of Forest Quad. He was known around Forest as a “Forest Friend,” a faculty member who allied himself with a floor in a residence hall. During meals, he showed students the side of a professor that wasn’t all about research and teaching. Professor Katz enjoyed the cafeteria cuisine and loved schmoozing with students. He gave students advice and offered opinions on everything from politics to fashion.

He took the women from Forest to the IU Opera. He was a donor to the IU School of Music, and as such, was allowed to sit for free in the third balcony of the Musical Arts Center during opera dress rehearsals.

According to the rules of the MAC, he was allowed to attend for free with family members. He dutifully showed up at the door to the balcony of the MAC for every dress rehearsal with as many as 20 freshman women in tow. He stated to the ushers, “these are all my nieces.”

Irving probably introduced more freshmen to IU Opera than anyone else. He loved the opera, and was happy to share his passion with students who had never seen it before.

I believe Irving is sitting at the Great Dining Hall now. He is enjoying his cafeteria roast chicken and mashed potatoes and green beans.

I can see the twinkle in his eye as he admonishes a student for answering his question with another question. He tells another student about the greatest paper in the world, the New York Times. As he was a lifelong Democrat, I hear him predicting who he thinks will win the Democratic nomination. He is telling one wide-eyed freshman about the story of “The Marriage of Figaro” in anticipation of an evening trip to the opera.

Wherever you are in the cosmos dear Irving, I hope we can dine again together someday. I miss you.

Amy Cornell’s column app ears every other Thursday in The Herald-Times. You can reach her at

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 14, 2008

Ten years of raising child brings insight and revelation

by Amy Cornell Community columnist |
February 14, 2008

Print-friendly My husband and I celebrate an auspicious anniversary in a few days. This Sunday, we mark 10 years of raising a child on this planet. Ten years ago, they wheeled my very pregnant body into an operating room and pulled my unsuspecting child out of my belly. He wailed, and I promptly fell asleep for 24 hours.

I have acquired a store of insight on parenting, and in honor of keeping my son alive and more or less happy for these 10 years, I thought I would share with you some highlights and wisdom.

Mom’s proudest moment: Potty training. Hands down, the memory of the day the kid learned to pull down his pants and use the toilet still makes me smile.

Dad’s proudest moment: Teaching him to ride a two-wheeled bike.

Best reason to remove TV privileges: For all his skill at using the toilet, he has not mastered the art of putting the seat up and down to accommodate female users.

Hardest habit to break: I tiptoe into my son’s bedroom every night to check on him. I place my ear close to his nose to make sure he is still breathing. I cannot stop doing this.

Worst method of discipline: Throwing a glass of cold water in your toddler’s face to get him to shut up. (Don’t try it. It doesn’t work.)

Most insane behavior-tracking device at our cooperative daycare: The biting chart.

Best metaphorical invention: Mommy Jail. I invented Mommy Jail to explain everything to him that was too complicated to do otherwise. It works like this:

“Mommy, why can’t I ride on the roof of the car?”

I reply, “If I let you do that I would get sent to Mommy Jail.”

Primary reason he is going to military school when he hits puberty:

I say, “Put your coat on; it’s time to leave for school.”

He ignores me for a game he is playing in his cereal bowl.

I say, “Put your coat on; it’s time to leave for school.”

He watches the cereal bowl Olympics.

I say, with a little more volume, “Put your coat on; it’s time to leave for school.”

The bowl fascinates him.


He looks up at me calmly and says, “OK, you don’t have to yell.”

Person who is going to hell: The person who invented Po-Ke-Mon cards. As far as I can tell, there are no logical rules to this game and each set of cards sets you back further then baseball cards ever did.

Enough is enough: Cartoon movies. I hope to never see another animated frog family or talking carrot.

Best reason to reconsider purchasing a Wii: Dollar for dollar, the kid got more enjoyment out of big rolls of scotch tape and cardboard tubes from empty wrapping paper rolls.

Best family dinner ritual: Highs and lows. We all go around the table and say the best and worst parts of our day.

Worst family dinner ritual: My son says, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

I say, “Chicken.”

My son says, “I hate chicken. I don’t want chicken.”

We have this same conversation no matter what I tell him I am making for dinner.

Most embarrassing moment: An African-American friend who came over to babysit happens to be a large and tall man. When he arrived, my son greeted him with this question, “Hey, do you want to watch Fat Albert with me?”

To the best of my knowledge, my husband and I have never forgotten to pick him up from anywhere or left him alone in a car while we watched a movie.

We’ve managed to feed him, bathe him and get him to sleep every day for 3,652 days. If that’s not cause for celebration, I don’t know what is.

Amy Cornell’s column appears every other Thursday in The Herald-Times. You can reach her at