Susan Hagler '80

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  • Heather Riggs
    Heather: Alright. Okay, go ahead.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: Susan Hagler, class of 1980. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Heather Riggs & Susan Hagler
    Heather: Okay, great. So, I don't know if you have something in particular you wanted to talk about?Susan: Well, I was looking at the questions. One thing I wanted to talk about was a professor that really influenced my life, so...Heather: Okay, great.Susan: Yeah, so... I get emotional, so... When I came to Grinnell in the fall of 1976, Howard Burkle was my Tutorial professor, and he's had a really great influence on my life. The Tutorial that fall was Religious Themes in Modern Fiction, and it was kind of a thing that I carried through my whole college time, that-
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: I did an independent major in Asian Studies and I ended up doing a senior project on Religious Themes in Asian Fiction and I was really drawn to that topic. And I took, probably, about four or five different classes from Howard, from Existentialism to that Tutorial to... I don't know. Maybe there was some particular class on Buddhism, and just a number of different classes, and Howard had always been...
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: Really, his mind was so inquisitive, and he [Howard Burkle] always wanted to explore different aspects of human spitituality and philosophy and stuff, and so I really appreciated that. And, so Howard also really opened his house up to us as his Tutorial students, and we were his advisees until people picked majors, and, actually, he ended up being my advisor all the way through because of the major I chose. But, you know, just, opening his house up to us and going over and hanging out with him. It was really wonderful, and the thing that- (Whispered: Can we read this? At all?)Heather: Yeah.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: Okay. So, the thing that has really inspired me about Howard is the personal challenges he [Howard Burkle] has had in his life. THe very first year we were there, in 1976 to 1977, his daughter- One of his daughters died of a drug overdose, and, you know, the whole campus rallied behind him and he, you know, in some way took it all in stride. I mean, it was a devastating thing and watching how he handled that was very... an inspiration to me. And then, later on- And he has always had a very optimistic attitude towards life, and later on, I think about six months after I graduated in 1980, his wife had lung cancer and died.Heather: Oh my goodness.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: And, you know, and Howard is somebody I've stayed in contact with throughout my post-time at Grinnell, and stuff, and yet again, he [Howard Burkle] , you know, he took it in stride, and it was very difficult. And, another son of his died, as well, and so, Howard has been through a lot in his life, and was always... a bit inspiring and a lesson to me is how he has dealt with his life and... been really engaged in his life. And, I know- Do you know Howard at all?Heather: No.Susan: Okay.
  • Heather Riggs & Susan Hagler
    Heather: I don't know if he's [Howard Burkle] still here.Susan: Yeah, he's at the Mayflower Nursing Home. Actually, I'm gonna go see him this afternoon. So, yeah. He's always been really engaged in his life, but after, when he was kind of a retired professor, he was very instrumental in helping the Posse Program get started, and he was right in the middle of everything, and he really helped get that program started. And he was a mentor to all those students who came from different areas of country- from urban schools and stuff.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: And, he [Howard Burkle] just embraced his life, and so.... I think about six or seven years ago, Howard had a stroke, and so when he had a stroke his... half of his body is paralyzed, so, he has been living at the Mayflower Nursing Home since then, and Howard's mind is as sharp and bright as ever, you know. This has been, I think, one of his most difficult challenges, his physical... a little bit of his diminishment in his physical body, but he is still inquisitive.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: I know he [Howard Burkle] goes to the... Clotfelters', another retired professor, and does- I think he does Bible study with them on Saturday, but not the usual kind of, thinking of Bible study, but really taking the Bible apart and questioning, and really looking at it. And so, he's engaged where he can be engaged, and he's always-
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: When I was graduating, and going up to Minneapolis, I wasn't sure what I was gonna do. But, when I went up to Minneapolis, I knew one person and I wasn't sure what I was gonna do. And he [Howard Burkle] said to me, "When you go to Minneapolis," paraphrasing, "if you need to flip burgers, go flip burgers," you know, "and just take care of your life in that way." And not- he's always been a big supporter of mine and very encouraging and he has changed my life.
  • Heather Riggs & Susan Hagler
    Heather: Wow. That's really moving. How is he [Howard Burkle] doing these days?Susan: Well, I'll see him this afternoon, but I called him last week to say "I'm coming! I wanna come visit you!" So, he was, you know, he's sharp as ever. He's just really physically diminished. I actually.. You know, this doesn't have to be on the tape, but.. I actually wish there was some way he could participate in college life, that he- Before he had a stroke, he was teaching a class, you know, or doing the thing with Posse. Now, obviously, he can't teach a class, but he could lead a discussion group, or do something. and I wish the College could find a place for him to do something here. (Whispered: You know, this doesn't have to be on the tape...)Heather: Oh, that's fine.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: You know, but because he's [Howard Burkle] 85 or 86 years old now, his body might be old, but his mind certainly isn't. He is very inquisitive and engaged, and wants to know what's happening. I know last time I saw him a couple years ago, he was feeling like he had to let Grinnell College go. That there wasn't a place for him here anymore. And that made me sad, you know? I think it would just take some students saying, "Let's get him involved."
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: He's [Howard Burkle] in a wheelchair, but I think that it would be incredible to have some people get Howad back involved because he's in the nursing home, and I don't know what he does. I know he goes once a week to the Clotfelters', and I don't know exactly what he does the other times, but there are things for him still to do. And he's a wise old man and to not waste that wisdom, you know, I would- you know. So there's my lobbying effort. Yes, and so... yeah.
  • Heather Riggs & Susan Hagler
    Heather: That's really a wonderful story. Is there anything else in particular you would like to talk about?Susan: Oh, let's see... What else...Heather: If you want, I can ask you questions but it seems like you're not...Susan: Sure, you can ask me questions.Heather: What- Yeah, go ahead.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: Oh let's see... Well, I can talk about when I first came. I came to Grinnell. I grew up on Long Island, New York, and I came to Grinnell and I barely knew where Iowa was. I hadn't come to visit Grinnell before I came and through the different circumstances, I ended up at Grinnell and I think it was, just, in the universal current for me to be here, because it was such a wonderful experience. Freshman year I lived in Langan pit, and my roommate was from Sioux City, Iowa, and she was kind of a 'Rah - Rah!' cheerleader type.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: And I was like a little hippie girl, and so it was- We were like the odd couple. In Langan pit that year... I think that half the football team lived in Langan pit, which was also kind of... very different than the people I normally experienced and so it was an interesting year living there, and the thing is, you know, even though in some ways people were out of the realm, we all got to be good friends, you know. And, Mariane (Mary-Ann) ended up actually leaving Grinnell because it wasn't quite what she wanted and went onto the University of Iowa in Iowa City and became a doctor and stuff, and so she did well for herself and I don't know where- what happened to all those football player people, and so... but, they were all upper-classmen.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: I think Mariane and I were the only freshmen on the floor, so that was interesting to come to Grinnell, and be in the basement with the football team. Yeah, yeah. I didn't know what it was gonna be like in Iowa. You know, on Long Island in New York, people who live in the New York City Metropolitan area think that the world stops at the border of New York City, and you don't need to know where anything else is, so...
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: So coming to Grinnell really widened my horizons. I got to know a much broader world. I... When I was here, I went on the India Studies program, and that was really wonderful. The orientation was at Carleton for three months, and then we went to India for six months and lived with a family there. And that was a real life-altering event as well, so....Heather: That's good.Susan: Yeah, yeah...Heather: Yeah.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: You can ask me questions, I guess...Heather: Okay, well-Susan: S- I don't know.Heather: Yeah, anything you wanna talk about.Susan: Oh, I don't know. Let's see... What did my dorm room look like? You know, the basement- I had all kinds of different dorm rooms, so I was in the basement, Langan Pit, which was like... a basement room. And then I was roommates with Diane Christiansen, who's Ken Christiansen's daughter. That's, you know- And- Oh! I'm gonna back up.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: I signed up for this TM Meditation cluster room that was, I think it was in Dibble Annex or something, and I originally signed up for it because I was gonna have a single room there, and then I ended up in a room... One of those rooms that had three people that had two rooms, and then a main room, with two people who I really didn't know and then I ended up transferring out of that room and became Diane's roommate. And at first we had this really tiny room on South Campus, I think, and it was a really tiny room.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: And then somehow, we were able to- and she particularly, because she had some 'ins' places- that we ended up this room in Mears Cottage, that's now an office, and I think it was the best room on campus. It was like this huge room with a window seat and it was magnificent, and it was like, you know, I was a sophomore and she was a freshman, and we had like the best room in the campus. And so, that was good, and then the next year I lived off campus the first half of the year, and then I went to- was going to India the second half of the year.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: And- the first half of freshman year, and then I had a deal... Where was that? I don't remember where that house is. I don't remember the name of the street. The landlord's name was Effie Cruz or something like that. And, it was a nice little two-room apartment, and... So, I was there before I went to India, and when I got back, 'cause I arranged it with somebody who was going off campus. She was there when I wasn't, and so... Yeah, yeah.Heather: That's great.Susan: And so... I had all kinds of different living situations.Heather: Yeah. Definitely.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: Oh, yeah. What influenced you most..... Well, what has changed since you were a student? I can't believe all these buildings. I bet you get that a lot! I was here six years ago for our 25th reunion. It was like, "None of this stuff was here." So, it was... just, like...Heather: Wow. That's crazy.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: Yeah. (Whispered: What book influenced you most?) Oh, here. Describe something no longer available on campus. (Whispered: Well, I shouldn't..) It really didn't influence me that much. I was gonna say, we can't go drink beer in Dibble- I mean in the, what was it called... The underground place.Heather: The Pub?Susan: The Pub! You see, I'm getting to this point where I lose words.Heather: Oh, no problem.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: So, excuse me. So, it was different then because the drinking age was 18, so... yeah. But that wasn't a big part of my college here. I'm not a big drinker, so... Oh. I don't know how to describe students today with my classmates 'cause I don't know the students today.Heather: Yeah, that's what everyone says.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: Yeah, yeah. What kind of clothes did you wear? That's a goofy question.Heather: I didn't write the questions.
  • Susan Hagler
    Susan: Well, you know, another professor was Harold Kasimow. I took Major Eastern Religions from him, and so we studied Hinduism, Buddhism, and maybe Jainism, and that really... That class really influenced me and I kinda knew that if I was going to pick a spiritual path that it would probably be Buddhism from that class, and actually, I'm a ordained Zen Buddhist priest, and so a lot of what I learned at Grinnell might not have been practical in terms of a financial career, but it has really impacted me as a.... in my life.
  • Susan Hagler & Heather Riggs
    Susan: You know, I went to Minneapolis about- and when I went there I was looking for some kind of meditation or yoga or something and I landed at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, I think, in November of the year. I moved there in June of 1980, and by November of 1980 I had gotten involved with the Zen Center and so I started- began a Zen practice when I was 22 years old.Heather: Wow.Susan: So, yeah... yeah. And so, that's been a big influence in my life, and my Grinnell education was a foundation for that, so... yeah.Heather: Well, thanks a lot.Susan: You're welcome! You're welcome.
Alumni oral history interview with Susan Hagler '80. Recorded June 4, 2011.