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David Basinger, 71

Man of many hats enters his 40th year of teaching at Roberts Wesleyan College — has taught more than 10,000 students

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.

Q.: What do you enjoy about teaching?

A.: Over the years, I just love talking to people about their beliefs and making a difference in people’s lives. Every year, you have a new group of people who come in with certain beliefs based on their culture, their family and their upbringing. It is a wonderful experience to see them expand their minds and be part of robust conversations that can transform the way they think about things. Your life can be changed just by having conversations with people who are from different backgrounds or just have different perspectives.

Q.: Why is it important to have these interactions?

A.: We have this belief at Roberts that our job is to help students connect their head to their heart and engage their hands. We want them to make a tangible difference with the knowledge they learn and that is essential today. People are always looking for meaning and purpose as they attempt to achieve their goals. We need to develop a society who actively engages in helping others and not just thinking about helping themselves.

Q.: What are some of your core beliefs?

A.: I really do believe that people who want to be healthy and productive mentally must have a purpose. I tell my students that being around people who are diverse helps you see the world better. Everyone comes into the world with different lenses. However, the more lenses we have, the better we are able to address and discuss important points of views. You have to get away from the thought that your own ideas are the only ones that matter. There is so much value in hearing various sides. There is a lot more nuisance in the world and answers aren’t just simple.

Q.: What have you liked about your time teaching?

A.: We have a philosophy that believes in the willingness to work together. It is an atmosphere that is conducive to learning, openness and overall camaraderie. We seem to have lost the ability to have civil conversations and discourse. Diversity is important not just for diversity sake. It makes you grow as a person. It guides you intellectually and brings a certain cultural humanity into everything you do. I know it is cliched, but it is true the saying if you love what you do then you never have to work a day in your life.

Q.: How has education changed over the last four decades?

A.: The funny part is one of the biggest shifts continues to be how students act and technology. Before you walked into the classroom and you had students talking to each other and you would have to quiet them down before classes starts. Now, you have students come into class and they are all checking their phones up until class starts and you have to get their attention to silence those phones as class begins. I think interpersonal skills are something that students need to make sure they are developing.

Q.: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A.: I enjoy reading murder mysteries and traveling with my wife, Linda. We have gone to Greece and Italy and next want to explore the Scandinavian region. We like to immerse ourselves wherever we go so we don’t often go on tours when we travel. We just like to be embedded as part of the culture.

Q.: What advice would you give to people that you have learned as you have gotten older?

A.: I think it is important to identify a purpose to your life. Make sure you spend time enjoying the world and being around great people. I tell people you can have all the high-paying jobs in life but if you don’t find something to get involved in that truly brings you joy then you are not living a worthwhile life. I find my meaning in helping people. That is why I am still here and not thinking about retirement.