How long have you been a professor at the University and what do you teach?
I’ve been here since 1973, so coming up on 39 years. I was a professor of social work … I’m an economist by training and when I was in the School of Social Work I taught statistics, policy analysis, research methods and things like that. I’ve been retired since Jan. 1, 2001, and during my retirement I’ve been teaching a sophomore honors seminar every year, and I teach the evolution of cognition seminar, and it’s great fun.

What do you discuss in your sophomore seminar?
It’s the evolution of senses, particularly sight … then we move to the evolution of language and how language evolved from gestures and all of the complicated ways that we communicate that goes with speaking.

What sense do you feel most people take for granted?
Touch. Touch, I’m pretty sure, is the absolute foundation of all senses … Once we get into using sight, sight dominates the brain tremendously in adult people. We forget about touch and touch is clearly much more foundational — we build everything on touch.

After 38 years at the University, what is your favorite thing about campus?
All those diagonal sidewalks. I love the fact that at the University of Michigan, someone a long time ago, decided to make sidewalks where people walk, rather than to force people to walk where they put the sidewalks. It’s kind of a symbol for me of the freedom to teach and think. All those sidewalks that get built as soon as people start making a trail across the grass, I love those very much.

Why did you decide to continue teaching after retirement?
There is a whole multitude of reasons, but … the main reason is to have some structure in my life and have some real motivation to do the kinds of reading I do … I very much enjoy being able to interact with young people and teach them. It’s just a huge pleasure, especially when you’ve got leisure time so you’re not terribly rushed.

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