2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the United States Civil War, and Dowling College has helped discover a part of it
by Jennifer Marie Vento
September 16, 2010
Student Jennifer Marie Vento finds in her closet a rare reason to celebrate. While cleaning, she discovered an artillery box that contained a single item inscribed, “US Army Signal Corps Telescope, no.262, O.C.S.O.”. The telescope collapsed is approximately 10 inches in length with a black leather barrow. There are two rows of 8 brass screws holding the leather to the brass and four more screws that secure straps on each side of the barrow. It is a four draw telescope that opens up to an impressive 36 inches in length. According to an article published in 2002 by David Winfred Gaddy, only 5 of these telescopes have been documented, two of which were manufactured in the United States and are inscribed with the trademark “queen;” the remaining are French-made Bardous.
What separates this telescope is its lack of a trademark; and according to Gaddy’s article, the lack of trademark means this telescope predates the Queens and is, in fact, a Bardou. Gaddy’s theory is that the French maker Bardou supplied the Signal Corps with the first telescopes used in the war and did not start trademarking the telescopes until 1864. According to Civil War dealer Garry Embrey, the U.S. Signal Corps was a division of the Army that lacked recognition during the Civil War; but research proves they were a highly valuable source of intelligence during that time because the Signal war telescopes offered accurate readings of enemy signals at longer distance. Signal war telescopes were necessary to see and interrupt enemy signals, which provided an advantage on the battlefield, and the telescopes became a badge of office. Survival of these telescopes is rare because Signal officers were ordered to destroy the equipment if under attack rather than to have the valuable instrument fall in the hands of the enemy.
Jennifer accredits Dowling College for the ability to recognize the historical value of this telescope, and she thanks her present and past professors for the knowledge to be able to properly research the history behind this rare artifact.
by Dr. Christian Perring
September 6, 2010
Jim Eder first started teaching Philosophy courses at Dowling in Fall 2001. As Department Chair, I had interviewed him and recommended him to be hired, and it was one of my best decisions in ten years in that job. Jim had 35 years experience teaching at Northport High School and he wanted to stay productive after he had retired. He taught at Dowling every semester after that until he passed away at the end of November 2009.
Jim was a popular teacher with students. That was easy to work out not only because I met many students who told me they really liked him, but also because his classes were nearly always full. He always told me he enjoyed teaching philosophy, and while he also taught at some other local colleges, he kept teaching at Dowling because he liked the students. He also taught because he liked the intellectual stimulation, and he needed to keep himself busy – he was not a man who was able to sit around and do nothing. He put a great deal of work into his teaching and the effort paid off.
It is rare to find out much about the personal lives of our adjunct faculty, but Jim had suffered a terrible loss earlier in his life and he wrote a memoir about it. His book Going Through Hell Without Help From Above: A True Crime Memoir, published in 2003, told the story of the murder of his 21-year-old daughter Vicki in 1985. He gave me a copy of his book and I wrote a review. What struck me about it was how emotionally honest it was, describing his horrific experience with an amazing candor. It was also an unusual memoir in describing his struggle in his religious belief. Part of his interest in philosophy came from his interest in trying to make sense of his own personal loss, and he really believed in the value of philosophical thinking. The book meant a great deal to him, and was a long project. He wrote to me at the time, “My recall of the many of the details of that time owe less to poetic license and more to the fact that, to cope with all of it, I wrote about events soon after they actually happened. It took me five or six drafts and fifteen years to complete it.”
The other thing about Jim was that he had a great sense of humor and was always reasonable, making it a pleasure to work with him. I would not see him often during the semester, but he would occasionally stop by my office, or we would exchange emails, and I always enjoyed talking to him. He had a strong skeptical side, and after 35 years of high school teaching, he knew what he was willing to put up with and what he was not. So I would offer him some opportunities, and some he would accept, others he would decline. We talked often about the difficulties of dealing with administrators and what worked in the classroom. I would also ask him to urge his students to take more philosophy classes, and he did so. In one of his last email messages to me, he wrote with his characteristic humor, “I will bang the drum! Philosophy will make all wise AND wealthy.” Jim’s death was a great loss for our department, and I personally miss him.
by Prof. Virginia Walker
Jim Eder and I team-taught Civilization: The Human Experience at Suffolk County Community College. He did the Philosophy and History and I the Art and Literature from the Greek period through the medieval. I had previously met him at Dowling College where we both also taught in the Freshman Year Experience Program a few years back. I now have a new partner in the Civilization course because Jim had gone on in September of this year to teach just philosophy courses at SCCC.
My first impressions were my lasting ones: he was funny, intelligent, and, under all the bluster, sweet. We had great rapport and an earnest teasing about my feminism and his reactionary attitudes—all in fun. We discovered that we both had degrees from St. John’s University and had grown up as near neighbors in Queens—without ever having met before. He had a running joke about our having attended the same proms. But then he said I was so much younger that we could not have been in the same generation—I let him believe that! A few times my husband drove me to work since my car was acting up. Jim Eder and my husband were instantly friends. Tall guys both, they knew the art of the stare down and laconic comeback.
Jim Eder employed his comebacks in class to the delight of the students. He got our students to think even when our morning class was half awake. He could talk to the young men about weight lifting and to the young women about pursuing a career no matter how challenging. He always had a point of engagement.
One stormy morning as I tried to leave Shelter Island, I found my way to the South Ferry blocked by a fallen tree. I could not go round the giant tree, so I tried to get off the island by the North Ferry, but there seemed to be a long wait because of other storm problems. I called Jim Eder and told him I would be about 45 minutes late—I was not scheduled to teach that morning, but both of us were at all classes. Jim listened to me go on and on and then said: “It is an omen! Stay home!” I did.
When he graded the course paper, he wrote in huge letters all over it. I had to put my own input in, but rarely disagreed with his decisions. I did somewhat pity those who had earned a poor grade—the grade was so visible!
He would startle the students early in the term by saying that statistics showed two of them would fall in love that term. Then he would explain that he did not mean they would fall in love with someone in our class. They looked relieved. One term I had two students, one male and one female, in my Dowling College Principles of Writing class who suddenly seemed to go berserk. They would show up late with donuts for the class or they would leave after a few minutes saying they were flying to the Caribbean and what would the class want them to bring back. They were inseparable. Neither handed in the required research paper and both got lower grades than I would have expected. I got some explanation from the young man on his final theme. He told me that his philosophy professor (Guess who?) had told him that two of the students would fall in love that term and my student had been disbelieving until he met his love—my other student! He said fate had struck. When I told this to Jim Eder he laughed for a long time.
Jim Eder told me he had written one novel and was working on another. Since I write poetry, our writing impulses became another theme in our conversations.
I was unprepared for his revelation of pain—the tragedy in his life. I heard the story when he told one of our classes—early in our team- teaching. I am not sure what triggered the story that day, but the tragic events just flowed out of him. We were all silent as the electricity of his pain caught us unawares. His daughter was murdered many years before and Jim, the father, attended the long trial until justice was done. I know the pain never ended. Perhaps this harrowing experience shortened his life.
When Jim decided to teach only philosophy, he apologized to me for abandoning me. I said I would be fine. Then he surprised me the last day of the term by giving me a huge box of chocolate truffles! I was astonished and had the impulse to hug him—which, of course, I did not. I said I would send him a book with some of my poems. I later thought that he might feel pressed to say something nice, so I did not.
This term we kept bumping into each other as we ran to our cars at SCCC’s Selden campus on our way to other classes or home. When I told him I only had 45 minutes to get from my class at SCCC to my class at Dowling in Oakdale, he said: “Be careful on the road! Why did you take that schedule?” When I told him that the class I was running to was Twentieth Century Women’s Stories, he understood. “Don’t rush too much,” he always called after me.
I last saw him right before Thanksgiving. We wished each other a great holiday and went our ways. We often joked about dying in the classroom. Neither of us could imagine life without teaching. I am glad he was hiking and enjoying life.
I will miss him very much. I find myself thinking of him with great fondness. He was a teacher to emulate. He deserved many more years in the classroom. He deserved that ungiven hug.