In debt to the State of Michigan for 70 years | MSU Today
Robert “Bob” Reising is an alumnus of the College of Arts and Letters. He received his BA with Honors in English, Language and Literature in 1955 and was a member of the MSU baseball team from 1951 to 1954. Reising received his doctorate in English from Duke University.
Originally from New Haven, Connecticut, I was recruited to play baseball. Ironically, it is not in the field that I have found my greatest success. It has been over 70 years and I still remember the teachers, professors and mentors who had an immeasurable impact on my life as a writer and an academic.
My life as a Spartan began in 1951 and luckily I have had multiple opportunities to experience campus life since that time. After graduating in 1954, I returned as a part-time teacher from 1958 to 1960 while working on my PhD in English. Then I returned twice as a visiting scholar during the 2003 and 2004 fall semesters.
John Abbott Clark was one of the greatest scholars I have had the privilege of knowing. I have a son, and his name is John Clark Reising. How’s that for the impact?
I met John Abbott Clark during my second year in an American investigation. He was an amazing teacher whose class always filled up right away. He was such an easy-going and affable man who cared about everything and everyone. His approach was very different from most – not the stereotypical college professor. Instead, John was exceptionally generous with his time and advice when asked.
We had things in common as athletes and maybe that helped bond. I still have my first book that he gave me – an essay book he edited, dated 1939. It is probably the most valuable book in my library. He was a citadel of knowledge – truly one of the great teachers. We stayed in touch until his death.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Glen Swarthout who taught first grade English. He became well known for some of his later film novels: “Where the Boys Are” and “The Shootist”, which was the last work of actor John Wayne. I remember Glen being especially encouraging of my abilities after writing an essay about an athlete who played for Yale. This encouragement gave me enormous self-confidence.
I met Russel Nye’s acquaintance at a doctoral seminar in 1959 when I was teaching part-time. He was an English teacher from 1941 to 1979, and it was thanks to my meetings with him that my interest in Native American literature was born. His assertions about my study of “Tomo Cheeki Papers,” Philip Freneau’s supposedly created by a Creek Indian essays satirizing ancient American culture and ideologies, left me speechless. His expertise and encouragement undoubtedly shaped the direction in which I steered my studies.
At the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 1971, I got a scholarship to take an Introductory Native American Literature course. By the end of the decade, I had taught the course several times, developed a second AIS course, “The Native American Literary Renaissance,” and published “Jim Thorpe: Tar Heel,” a monograph covering the two baseball summers of the year. Native American athlete Jim Thorpe in North Carolina, 1909 and 1910. Without Nye, I probably wouldn’t be in the position I am currently in as I team up with Thorpe’s great-grandson Jim Thorpe Kossakowski on “Between Warring Worlds: Jim Thorpe, The Rest of the Story.”
Unexpectedly, in the spring of 2003, a local reporter approached me with an overwhelming invitation to team up with him on a biography of Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham, Carolina-born baseball player, doctor and researcher. catapulted to world fame in the hit film “Field of Dreams”. Thus was born “Chasing Moonlight”. And when I visited East Lansing a few months later, two biographies caught the eye.
It was during this return to campus that I met Professor Douglas Noverr, former chair of the Department of American Writing, Rhetoric and Cultures and a faculty member for 48 years. Soon he became another Michigan State professor to whom I feel exceptionally indebted. Together we gave a presentation on Thorpe in 2004 and several years later when I wrote an article on Ernest Hemingway, caused by the untimely death of Robin Williams, Douglas provided me with invaluable advice as I finished. research in view of the play. During my consecutive fall semesters as a visiting scholar, his wisdom and common sense reinforced my current beliefs in telling the truth.
The connections I made and the memories of my time at MSU are as important today as they were 70 years ago.
I WILL GO GREEN forever!
Note: Banner photo taken at a reunion of the 1954 MSU baseball team, the longest regularly meeting in the history of American intercollegiate athletics.