UAlbany MagazineUniversity at Albany

Lawrence Epstein, B.A.’67, M.A.68, Ph.D.’76

Learning While Writing

By Amy Halloran, B.A.’90

“From Dante Thomas on the first day to Mark Berger on the last day and all those people in between, I saw model after model of excellent teacher” at UAlbany, said Lawrence J. Epstein.

Thomas’ classes convinced the history major to switch to English. Berger, his thesis advisor and a professor of Educational Administration and Policy Studies, taught him to use language with precision and rigor. Faculty members Arthur Collins, Eugene Mirabelli, and M.E. Grenander also left strong impressions. Epstein drew on these examples throughout his career teaching English at Suffolk County Community College.

Epstein began writing professionally while he was a graduate student, working on book reviews for Albany’s Jewish World newspaper. As he became interested in different topics, such as religion, politics, and Jewish comedians, he began to write journal articles, and eventually, books. Epstein has written a number of titles on Judaism. His book The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America (PublicAffairs, 2001) led to Mixed Nuts: America’s Love Affair with Comedy Teams (PublicAffairs, 2004). Currently, he is working on a biography of George Burns.

While Epstein vowed to never force his students to buy a book that he had written, and thus kept his writing and teaching lives fairly separate, there is a common ground to his endeavors.

“I always find myself learning as I write. That’s the heart of it. And that goes back to the notion of teacher, and the heart of my identity is that I’m a learner. I like learning, and I like imparting what I’ve learned, so that students would enjoy (the classes),” said Epstein.

The World Within Reach

Howard Miller, B.S.’81, executive coach and management skills instructor, has published You're Full of Shift. This inspiring book contains short stories of shifting difficult situations to opportunities; these are great anecdotes to reduce conflict and stress. Miller is a board member of the National Speakers Association Northern California Chapter and has been on the boards of American Society of Trainers and Developers and Golden Gate Business Association. He was a Big Brother for seven years and volunteered for San Francisco Suicide Prevention.