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Spotlight On … Read ’93 And Rachel Guy Schuchardt ’94

Read ’93 and Rachel Guy Schuchardt ’94 had daughter Marguerite Katherine on Sept. 23, bringing the family total to seven boys and three girls—and two grandchildren (all pictured above at a Christmas gathering). In March 2017, son Mercer and wife Emma had daughter Juniper, and in August eldest child Constance and husband Ruben had daughter Beatrice.

What do you love most about what you do?

"This is a great irony of my life," says Read, a communication professor at Wheaton College. "I was a terrible high school student and a pretty mediocre college student, even going so far in my final Phoenix article to claim that I would never go to school again, but 18 months after graduation, when I got to graduate school, I loved every minute (of 10 years) of it. So what I love about teaching is the chance to actually be a liberal arts student and be paid to be 'a lifelong learner.'"

How has Swarthmore shaped your career—and your life?

"Probably the best thing Swarthmore did for me was make me feel really really stupid. I’m still convinced that the rigorous academics, and the exposure to such a breadth, depth, and variety of courses and ideas, was the driving force behind my decision to go to graduate school. I graduated Swarthmore feeling dumber than when I started, and so I said to myself, 'Self, you better go learn something.' And being an English major was a fantastic preparation for studying Media Ecology. I was most impacted by professors Donna Jo Napoli, Craig Williamson, Harry Pagliaro, Steven Piker, and A.J. Levine. I still remember their classes, tell key stories I learned from them, and use their pedagogical tricks in my teaching to this day. I also lead a study-abroad trip every two years to Germany and Switzerland to study the impact of the Printing Press on the Reformation, a love that was first kindled by the French department’s semester-abroad program in Grenoble, France."

What advice would you give current Swarthmoreans hoping to follow in your path?

"Don’t follow my path! I took too many wrong turns, made too many mistakes, missed too many opportunities, and wasted a lot of time, money, and energy along the way. But if you want to be a college professor, you have to abide by certain truths that are industry-standard clichés, and yet are fairly rock-solid and reliable: 1.) You have to know it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Maybe you’ll finish, but maybe 10 or 14? You have to know how to find your second wind, and third wind, and fourth wind. 2.) You have to know that roughly two-thirds of Ph.D. students never get their degree, so you have to be persistent. 3.) You have to love the study for the love of the study and no reward external to that, especially if you’re going to teach in the new higher ed environment with disappearing tenure-track jobs. And 4.) You have to play the game to win it, constantly seeking to get published, to find an audience, to improve your writing, to actually care how to get your stuff out there. So you’re risking a heck of a lot for possibly no return on investment, so I tell my students to only do it if you a.) were going to be studying/researching/gnawing on this same bone anyway with or without a degree, b.) know that in 10 years you’ll be 10 years older anyway, so why not have something to show for it, and c.) have a professor to study under that believes in you and your work. For me that was Dr. Neil Postman, and without his personal invitation and support, I would never have applied for the Ph.D. after achieving the master’s degree." 

Anything else you’d like to say?

"Yes, despite how much of an uphill climb it is, it really is worth it. It’s a great life where you get to constantly learn, constantly re-perceive the world through young people’s eyes, get to research, study, and publish on that which excites you most, and you get a lot of time with your spouse and children, who also get the benefit of going to college for free (or mostly free), which is actually the biggest expense of being in the middle class. I’d also suggest to not let your grad schooling prevent you from starting a family right away. If we had waited until I had my degree, then we wouldn’t have had any children because I didn’t finish until I was 36. So we lived in a 700-square-foot apartment in Jersey City for 10 years with two kids, and by the time I finished grad school we had six, and it was “pretty cozy” to say the least, but in retrospect I’d do it all again and just try to finish sooner. So now we have 10 kids and live in a palatial 1,400-square-foot mansion, where it is luxury beyond compare. But because we married at Swarthmore and had our first child when Rachel was a senior, we became grandparents at 48 and 46, respectively. It’s ridiculously fun to have a new daughter who is younger than both our granddaughters, because it makes you feel old and young at the same time. Jordan Peterson says that the purpose of life is to participate in the process of life, and Rachel and I just realized that we’ve been making new life for 25 years straight, which is about a third of an average human lifespan. But as Yitta Schwartz said, “If you leave a child or grandchild, you live forever.” And to be clear, Rachel has been doing the heavy lifting, I’ve just been there to assist: buy some groceries, change some diapers, file some auto insurance claims, fry some eggs, buy more bourbon, that sort of thing … ;)  It is equal parts (and simultaneously) stressful and joyful, but we’ve found it incredibly meaningful."