Shimer College

May 09, 2014

Meet Our Friends

President Susan Henking interviews Donald Whitfield, Director of Great Books Discussions at The Great Books Foundation in Chicago, IL

Susan Henking: Every friend of Shimer met Shimer somehow. How did you?

Don Whitfield: As a malcontent high school student eons ago, I sought out schools that admitted freshmen without a high-school diploma. Shimer, then in Mt. Carroll, was high on the list.

SH: Seneca has said that one of the true qualities of friendship is to understand and to be understood. If you were going to introduce shimer as your friend to someone else, what might you say?

DW: I would say that shimer is a friend who is never at a loss for interesting talk about things that matter and who never substitutes serial monologues for true conversation.

SH: One of the things I’ve noticed as I travel the country for Shimer is that, somehow, Shimer seems to be connected to everyone! Please share with us one of your favorite stories about how this – a “six degree’s of separation” story!

DW: Several years ago, I was introduced to a very elderly couple living in the Chicago suburbs. I discovered that the wife’s father had been president of Shimer in the 1920s or ’30s.

SH: The Shimerian community is partly a product of reading together. What are you reading these days ?

DW: Of all things, the Koran and the Masnavi of Rumi, preparing for a summer course I teach in Toronto.

SH: What question have you never been asked that you wish someone would ask you? What’s your answer?

DW: This is actually the question I wish somebody would have asked me! My answer is, of course, recursive and self-referential to the question itself. How’s that for a logical tangle?