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How well do you know your professors?

Insight into their non-campus lives

By JENNA DANIEL / VN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
On January 24, 2017

Students at Detroit Mercy spend a good chunk of time with their professors. 

Yet, whether their classes meet once, twice or three times a week, they don’t necessarily get the chance to really know them. 

But just like students, professors are regular people, too, with funny quirks and interesting lives outside of their teaching careers. 

Dr. Matt Mio, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, for example, founded his own club outside his work.

“Ever since I was very little, my mother told me that I was supposed to be born on Halloween,” said Mio. “I was born on 4 November, so I always had a connection to the holiday.”

Mio’s father was a “weekend carpenter, plumber and electrician,” so every year Mio would ask his father to help him build props and decorations for the annual holiday. Neighbors loved the cool and scary sights that the father-son duo brought to life. 

By the time Mio was in his early twenties, he was building fully operational Halloween decorations, so he decided to see if other Metro-Detroiters were interested in the same.

Twelve years ago, he founded the Motor City Haunt Club. It has been a success, and now has more than 50 members. 

“We meet monthly to learn new techniques and exchange information about Halloween,” noted Mio. “For instance, did you know that there are more haunted houses, hayrides and cider mills/orchards in metro Detroit than anywhere else in America?”

Economics professor Bruce Brorby of the economics department also has done some interesting things outside of his working life at Detroit Mercy. 

Prior to his wife’s death in 2006, he and his wife were avid campers who traveled all over the U.S. in search of the best campgrounds.

“We first did tent camping, then camped with a pop-up trailer, and then later with a fifth wheel RV,” Brorby said. “We camped at state parks all over Michigan, including the upper peninsula, in Ohio and Kentucky.”

Dr. Roy Finkenbine of the history department was not always an established scholar. 

He grew up in Ohio in the 1950s and 1960s. His dad did not make much money, so Finkenbine and his family had to make do with what was available to them on their family-owned farm. 

“We ate what many today would consider ‘funny things,’ ” Finkenbine said. “Among the ‘delicacies’ I liked as a child were fried calves brains, fried pumpkin blossoms, chicken-fried rabbit, morel mushrooms from our woods and dandelion greens.”

Communications professor Cynthia Langham has a slightly different taste pallet. 

“I eat chocolate almost every day,” she said. “I like the taste of chocolate – and also because of the many health benefits.”

Dr. David Koukal of the philosophy department never thought he would make it to college let alone earn his PhD.

“I was at best a C student in high school,” he said. “I thought I would end up pumping gas for a living.”

After graduating high school, Koukal worked many jobs. He labored at McDonald’s, sold cameras and renovated apartments.

When he decided to enter in college, he had already been graduated out of high school eight years. 

“I went to Shimer College, a very small liberal arts college, with just over 100 students total,” he said. “When I graduated, I was one of a graduating class of eight students, then on to grad school for philosophy and here I am.”

Of course, students do get to know some of the quirks of their professors.

Professor Evan Peterson of the College of Business Administration has proof.

“On my way to an evening class a few semesters ago, I encountered two students in my class in the hallway of Commerce and Finance,” he said. “One student, who I had had in a prior course, looked at the other one and said something to the effect of, ‘You owe me five dollars,’ ”

Peterson was curious about the bet.

“He then told me that he bet his friend that when they saw me for class that night, I would have a bottle of Coca-Cola in my hand,” he said. “Sure enough, I did. I suppose that when students start noticing, I need to cut back.”

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