Teaching UC students “since the beginning of time”
Gianna Cognetti, Features Editor
Students recognize when teachers have an impact not only on their education but also in their daily lives. Characteristics like those are why Utica College students rave about Professor John Cormican and his unique teaching style.
Cormican has taught at UC for 46 years, or as he likes to say, “since the beginning of time.” He teaches many English language courses such as Modern English Grammar, History of the English Language, Introduction to Linguistics, Language and Culture, Introduction to English Language and others relating to heavier subjects such as racism, sexism and politics.
He started his teaching career in Columbia, South Carolina, where he was put to work in the administrative office, much to his disliking. Soon after working in Columbia, Utica College provided him with a job offer, to which he took the opportunity.
Cormican said the students are what he enjoys most about teaching. Many have revisited him after they have graduated, others write him letters to express the positive impact he left on them and to share their gratitude towards him. Despite the age difference, he is able to build a rapport with them and connect through ideas, feelings and beliefs.
“They are mostly good kids and they want to get ahead in life,” Cormican said. “A lot of them are scared to death about the future and I was too when I was their age.”
Former students of Cormican’s have said he discusses many subjects most people would perceive as taboo. Yet, Cormican finds it important to speak openly about such social and political issues because many students do not understand what is going on in the world.
“Most of them are totally ignorant of history,” Cormican said. “They don’t read newspapers.”
He encourages his students to be active in society, even if that means just voting. He said a lot of young people do not follow the news and the older people in society are the only ones voting. He desires to provide them with the information they need based on literature and history in order for them to make their own decisions to think for themselves.
A favorite moment of his throughout his career was when he was recognized for his distinctiveness and great teaching skills with the nomination of the Semis Teaching Award. He appreciates the fact that he is able to touch the hearts of students and create a sense of community within his classes.
Although he has had many successes, Cormican has had some challenges throughout his career, such as when he had his cataracts removed. This impairs him with computer technology, which is necessary in many aspects of today’s society. With many attempts to use such technology to no avail, the dean at the time hinted at the possibility of retirement for Cormican.
Obviously, that did not happen.
Aside from his career, Cormican has adopted a student from UC and has many other children he is proud of. In his free time, he enjoys reading, gardening and tending to his farm. His farm consists mostly of sheep currently but he previously owned a variety of animals, including pigs, goats, ducks, calf, chickens and others. Like his personality, his farm is also unique: He has grown blue potatoes and have had chickens that lay green eggs.
His description on the UC website, which reads“A self-described born again peasant,” suits him.
“I have all these graduate degrees and I choose to live on the farm with all these animals,” he said.
Cormican is a wise presence to the faculty at UC and is thought of highly by many. His desire to teach concepts that go beyond the classroom is what makes him such an admirable and inspirational leader to those he encounters.
Cormican wants to be remembered in life and at UC as someone who did his best.