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David Julian Hodges

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Outlook and Perspective as a Professor of Anthropology

 

I'd rather be a teacher than a member of any other profession. I love teaching. I have taught at Hunter College since the beginning of my teaching career starting in the 70s.

Teaching runs in my family. Both my mother and my father were college professors, as were several of my aunts and uncles. Yet, everyone in my family acknowledges that the most gifted, anointed and dedicated teacher in our family was my grandmother.

I was 11 years old when my grandmother died. I remember her very well. She was born into slavery. (She was born in 1859, was 4-years old when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves, and she died at our home in Atlanta, Georgia in 1955 at the age of 96.) Because there were no colleges, and few other schools for Blacks in the South until years after slavery, my grandmother was largely self-taught and used her knowledge to teach others. My grandmother was a significant influence on my life, and certainly upon my decision to be a teacher.

I became an anthropologist chiefly because of the influence of Ethel J. Alpenfels my doctoral mentor at NYU, and my all-time favorite teacher. Dr. Alpenfels was a major factor in my life and development as an anthropologist. I don't think I've ever taught a course without quoting her in some special way, so lasting was her influence on my life as an anthropologist and as a human being. I like to think that much of her legacy as a teacher lives on through me. I hope to convey to my students some small measure of the excitement about the discipline of anthropology that Ethel Alpenfels instilled in those of us who were her students.