Peter Sharpe came to Wagner in 1994 to teach journalism and English. He had completed his doctorate at New York University two years prior, an interval he spent as a journalist at the United Nations.
“That job would have killed me in five years,” Dr. Sharpe says, recalling the time he covered a midnight emergency meeting of the Security Council during the war in Kosovo. “So I came to bucolic ‘Wagner College on the hill.’ I managed to extend my life rather pleasantly while there, of course.”
Along with Prof. Claire Regan, Dr. Sharpe designed a new minor in journalism at Wagner. He established courses in African-American, Irish and Southern literature — the last including what he calls his “pet” courses, Southern Women Writers and Growin’ Up in Dixie. To this day, he says, he loves reading Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and many others. He also served as an advisor to The Wagnerian (the student newspaper) and Nimbus (the student literary arts magazine), and as a member of the editorial board of the undergraduate research journal.
“It’s true what they say,” he notes. “It all goes by in a flash. Suddenly you’re old and sitting in a rocker wrapped in an afghan plucking a banjo. Reminds me of a Flannery O’Conner character, General Tennessee Flintrock Sash, who was dressed in a Civil War outfit once every year and wheeled out to be displayed next to other war artifacts, but was too old to remember whether or not he had actually participated in the conflict. I’m not quite there yet, but literature provides exempla of how it could all turn out.”
Dr. Sharpe elected to retire because of his wife’s battle with recurring cancer. This ended his time at Wagner just short of two decades.
“I decided to step down from my post and join the fight with her full time,” he says. “It’s bittersweet to leave behind the teaching life, and especially those students who were expecting me to walk into their classes this past fall. I felt — and still feel — I have some good teaching days ‘in the tank,’ but at the same time, it’s a privilege to care for someone.”
Dr. Sharpe also plans on spending his retirement looking for other “worthy fights” to engage in as an activist — on issues ranging from fracking to puppy mills.
“I would advise,” he notes on his retirement, “that one laugh as often as possible, drink only fine red wine and single malt, listen closely and often to jazz, read poetry aloud once a day, and root hard for your favorite teams. Also, it’s a good idea to rotate your tires every 5,000 miles, avoid processed food and keep an eye on your blood pressure. Follow a path, preferably the path to enlightenment and not the refrigerator. And if that isn’t enough to get you there, bear in mind the inimitable words of Samuel Beckett: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” — Jason Borelli ’97 | For Wagner Magazine | November 5, 2013
- A tribute to Peter Sharpe from the English department
- Retirement profiles of Professor John Jamiel, Dr. Ammini Moorthy, and Dr. Joedy Smith