English Professor Shares Life Story
THE SANTA CLARA
January 29, 2014
Jeffrey Zorn, a senior English Department lecturer, spoke to a crowd of over 100 people on Tuesday night about how the major social and political movements of the 1960s and 1970s shaped his life experiences.
Zorn, who will retire after this school year, spoke about his life as a part of Santa Clara’s Last Lecture Series, hosted by the Associated Student Government.
Zorn’s working-class parents raised him in a Jewish urban village in Boston.
He praised his father’s time serving in the military during World War II, and later, his work ethic as the unit manager, or “head cutter,” at a women’s garment factory.
“My father taught me what it means to be productive at a very high level, whereas my mother’s cheery, live spirit provided me with unconditional love,” he said.
He chronicled his time at the rigorous Boston Latin School, which was predominantly Jewish, from seventh to twelfth grade.
Zorn was one of over 200 students who graduated out of more than 1,000, and was ranked eighth out of all the students.
“If you asked me, then, at age 15, what was the worst part of my life, I would reply the high expectations being put on me by my father and teachers,” Zorn said. “If you asked me, at age 21, what the best part of my life was at age 15, I would answer the high expectations being put on me by my father and teachers.”
His love of reading and being bilingual in English and Hebrew got him through the arduous environment at Boston Latin School.
He attended Dartmouth College to study classics during the 1960s, a time of major social upheaval.
“There was a clear difference between the seniors and the freshmen (at Dartmouth),” Zorn said. “And my class was liminal; we had one foot in the traditional ‘50s style and one in the radical ‘60s style.”
As the political consciousness at Dartmouth strengthened while the Vietnam War heated up, Zorn came to find meaning in political activity and cultivated an interest in anarchism as many of his classmates died in the war.
After being admitted to the University of Cambridge, Zorn attended political protests and was even arrested for his participation.
“You get swept up in the mob mentality,” Zorn said. “You feel so inspired and invincible. When you know you’re on the right side of history, there’s no sense that you’re wrong or that you’re a small person.”
The Last Lecture series invites professors to reflect upon their lives and impart personal advice as if it were their last opportunity to do so.
Contact Nanki Bhullar at nbhullar.