A Philosopher’s Passion for Professoring

Professor Richard Legum’s facial expression resembles the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. No one knows what he is thinking.

The witty professor of Philosophy at Kingsborough Community College has no borders. He enjoys sharing his ample knowledge with his students from all over the world. His students come from different countries like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and of course, the United States.However, his road to teaching wasn’t a straight-ahead one. For Legum, philosophy became more than just a profession, it became his vocation.

“My last year in high school I took a course on Political Philosophy, it was during the Vietnam war, a very interesting class,” he said, “we talked about Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli. I was very captivated by the questions. When I went to college, I started taking Philosophy classes and before you know it I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy.”

Legum, 63, is married with two sons and five grandchildren. His father was a lawyer. Born and bred in Brooklyn, and raised in a conservative household where he learned to observed all his religious traditions. He is a practicing Orthodox Jew. He is respectful of all of his students and treats them equally and provides them with the same opportunity of success in his classroom, regardless of their race, gender or religion. He is patient and kind with his disabled students as well. Besides, while teaching his classes, he wears informal attire- jeans, a cap and a shirt with the sleeve folded at his elbows, which accompanied by his sense of humor, creates a comfortable environment for his students.

Legum studied until eighth grade in a Yeshiva School in Flatbush Avenue after went to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, he has B.A. in Philosophy from Franklyn and Marshall College, a Ph. D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester and a Certificate from NYU in Business.

Then Legum began to build his experience while he still was at Rochester University teaching night classes in the late ‘70s. After graduation, he taught in College of Charleston, Charleston South Carolina. Live took a 360-degree turn when he went to serve in the army for the thirteenth month as an infantry officer.

“When I got out I went back to teaching Philosophy,” he said, relaxed and comfortable. From now on his first love, teaching Philosophy, took part ways until sometime later. “After that, I decided to leave Philosophy and got a job in the computer field where I worked for 30 years.” He attempted to start an IT business, but unfortunately, “was very unsuccessful.”

30 years after his graduation, he decided to go back to his regarded occupation. He was hired by Kingsborough College in 2011 and has been working here ever since. Ironically, Legum considers teaching as his retirement, even though most people do this for a living. He is currently writing articles when he is not teaching.

“I spent most of my summer rewriting part of my dissertation, which I think I will turn into an encyclopedia article in the theory and knowledge of certain philosophers work,” said Legum. “There is some work on Plato; I have done some writing in pedagogy, in teaching philosophy.”

Teaching, for Legum, is like cooking. The more love you put into your craft, your recipe, the better the taste and effect on his students. Therefore, passion and care are the best ingredients. That’s the way he spices up his classroom and life, too. It Is not take out. It is homemade.

“I find it exciting to sit down and be able to deal with students entering the college and watch them as they progress,” Legum said. “I had the chance to see my students, who sometimes are immigrants, come from another country, sometimes not have much education during the first twelve years and watch as they developed as they learn they bridge the gap. By the time they leave here, they are ready to finish their education somewhere else or go to the job market.”

Author: Carolina Khanin

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