By Eric Norwood Jr.
PNT staff writer
Michael Shaughnessy is entering his 31st year on the faculty of Eastern New Mexico University. A native of New York, he started at ENMU in 1983 after finishing his doctoral work at the University of Nebraska. He is now a professor of special education.
As one of the longest tenured faculty members on campus, Shaughnessy has been a part of the Portales community, and has helped shape the careers and futures of countless students.
What do you like the most about the city of Portales?
The people are warm and gracious and friendly. In every store, people go out of their way to help you and greet you with a friendly smile. If you have seen the sign upon entering Portales, “A Town of 12,000 Friendly People – And Three or Four Old Grouches” well, I have to tell you that I haven’t met those three or four old grouches yet. And I have been here 30 years. So, I will have to let the person who did the sign know about this. Portales has a number of great restaurants and many, many fine doctors, nurses and pharmacists. I should also mention the fine police department, fire department and our local leaders. I have known the mayor for many years and appreciate her endeavors and efforts.
What was your first pet?
Black lab…I have always enjoyed the company of Labrador retrievers — and I like most dogs in general — but chocolate labs, golden labs and black labs have a special place in my heart.
Who was your favorite band or singer in college?
There were so many, but Neil Diamond stands out as one great singer, Barry Manilow as a great musician, Barbara Streisand, and of course the Three Tenors, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and of course, Pavarotti. Of course in terms of bands, the Beatles, the Stones, and there were many other artists in many other venues that made an impact on the world of music.
Tell us about an interesting student you have had at ENMU.
I have had so many amazing students that I would not be able to pick out just one. Many have gone on to medical school, many have gone on for the Ph.D., many have completed their master’s and many have gone on to be scholars in their own right. Just recently I got an e-mail from a student that I had as an undergraduate in 1983 who is just finishing her doctorate. I am also very proud of the ENMU students who have completed their Ph.D. and asked me to serve on their doctoral dissertations. And the students who have co-authored research studies with me, or co-authored chapters in books, or who have completed their own experimental studies. Some students have presented with me at international conferences and continue to do so.
Who is your favorite author?
There are simply way too many, in way too many different genres. I read much of Jack Williamson’s work when he was alive and teaching here at ENMU. I currently am reading some of Howard Gardner’s latest work and for pleasure reading, Daniel Silva. Of course, I have liked Stephen King’s books over the years and I recall when I was the editor of a journal he allowed me to reprint one of his short stories in my journal. I have invited him here many times to ENMU for the Williamson lectureship, but alas, he is always too busy writing books. In the historical realm, I enjoy David McCullough, and I try to get through Tolstoy on occasion. I think the “big three” are probably Dumas, Cervantes and Dickens.
What is your fondest memory from working at ENMU?
I think every graduation is a fond memory, as students see the completion of their undergraduate or even graduate work. I think it is a great day for faculty, for parents, and for students as many have worked long and hard to graduate. Many students I know have worked part-time jobs, worked all summer for tuition and books and some have become parents and continued their education.
If you could have dinner with any three people who would they be?
Abraham Lincoln would be one choice and the more I learn about the person, the president, and the politician, the more impressed I have been with his achievements and accomplishments. The recent movie about him and the flurry of books about his life attest to his greatness. The second person might be Winston Churchill. I would be interested in his historical take on World War II and what he endured leading the British people at that time. Also, he was a prolific writer and painter as well. It would be interesting to hear about his hobbies and interests and his acumen as a historian. The third person would be either Napoleon or Louis XIII. These mentioned I feel are key people of their times and generation. These three had the most impact on their time period.
What in your opinion is the biggest difference in ENMU from 1983 and now?
Probably the increase in technology, computers and various newer forms of instructional delivery. Instructional television was not yet on campus when I arrived and it evolved over several years. Today we have Internet-based instruction and supplementary assistance via media site and Skype and other methodologies. We have some great people assisting the faculty in these endeavors and trying to facilitate and expedite the instructional process. I am very much grateful to the support that I get in those areas.
One thing that has remained consistent over the years is the friendliness, and the helpfulness of the people. We have some of the finest people, finest teachers, finest musicians and accomplished scholars and researchers around. And of course we have some of the finest leaders and support staff to provide the leadership and assistance to make the entire university run smoothly.