In this post we recognize Tom Moran, John D. Berninghausen Professor of Chinese, for his 25 years of Service to Middlebury. Tom discusses some valued colleagues, reveals his future plans, and shares some advice for new employees. Read on to learn more about Midd from Tom’s point of view.
What did you do prior to work at Middlebury College and where were you located?
I was a graduate student and teaching assistant at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Before that I taught 8th grade in Washington, D.C. and 6th grade at an international school in Beijing, China; and before that I was a carpenter’s assistant in northern Virginia.
What job titles have you held while working at Middlebury?
Starting with my current title and working backwards: John D. Berninghausen Professor of Chinese; Professor of Chinese; Associate Professor of Chinese; and Assistant Professor Chinese. I’ve also been Chair of the Chinese Department, Director of East Asian Studies, and Director of the Middlebury School C.V. Starr School Abroad in Beijing, China.
Take us back to your first year as an employee at the College. What were the most significant things happening in your life outside of work then?
To be honest, I don’t remember much life outside of work during my first year as an employee at the College! I do remember one hour one afternoon in the spring when I sat, my back against a tree, a happy dog beside me, in an apple orchard, which was in bloom. That one hour might have been the entirety of my life outside of work in my first year, sad to say!
What are the most significant things happening in your life outside of work now (that you’d like to share)?
The most significant thing happening in my life outside of work now is happening in the life of my wife, Rebecca Purdum, who is a painter. She has work in the inaugural exhibit at the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation in New York City. The show is up through August 2019. Rebecca’s life and her work are always the most significant things in my life. Also important to me is maintaining connections with my far-flung family, my nearby neighbors, and many old friends close and far.
Have your interests/hobbies/athletic endeavors changed over the past 25 years? Have any of these been influenced by your work at the College or due to your association with others who work here?
Much of my work at the College involves literature and film, and the beauty and philosophy they carry, and so my work interests and my life interests are the same. My hobbies remain reading–recently biographies of Romantic era figures–and going outside. My pastime of following Arsenal in the English Premier League has been influenced and encouraged by my association with economist and Gooner Will Pyle. My athletic endeavors have grown a little more, how to put it, urgent, because the years left to me for athletic endeavor no longer seem unlimited.
What is your fondest memory or experience that you’ve had while working at Middlebury?
I have many, some from 1994 and some from last week. Many are of listening to students I have worked with speak with assurance, grace, and intellectual generosity about what they have learned and about what they believe.
Many people change jobs/careers multiple times in their working life. Something must have kept you here for 25 years. Is it anything that you can put into words?
I am a scholar of Chinese language and literature, and there are few places in the country with programs in Chinese language and literature for undergraduates that are as robust and strong as ours. Away from work what has kept me here is the town of Ripton, where my wife and I have lived for 20 years. The wonderful people who live in Ripton keep me here, as does Ripton’s wildlife. It’s a great place to live.
What are your plans for the next 25 years?
I climbed Mt. Tai in China’s Shandong province in 1981 at the age of 24, and I climbed it again in 2011 at the age of 54. Maybe I’ll climb it again after another 30-year interval at age 84, but if I do, and I make it to the top, I’m taking the cable car down. That takes me to 2041, which is 22 years away. After that, I don’t know.
Do you have a favorite place on campus?
My office. I like being surrounded by the books, copies of senior theses, notes from students, and mementos that have collected around me over 25 years. The sun comes in my south window, and through my east window I can see the mountains.
Is there any person on campus (or retiree, former employer) that mentored you, or you feel helped you grow into your job, grow to enjoy your work and your time at the College?
John Berninghausen, Gregory Chiang, Carole Cavanaugh, Nobuo Ogawa, and Stephen Donadio mentored me and helped me grow into my job, even if not all of them knew it at the time. Jeff Cason and I arrived at Middlebury in the same year, and my friendship with Jeff has made my time at the College more enjoyable. My colleagues in the Chinese Department, emeritus professor John Berninghausen and current faculty Carrie Wiebe, Weihe Xu, Hang Du, and Katherine Wang, our coordinator Nicole Patterson, our colleagues at our Schools in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Kunming, and all of our students and alumni together create a community that I feel very fortunate to belong to.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new employee at Middlebury, what would it be?
I think everyone finds and makes their own Middlebury. There is much here to be found that is wonderful. My advice is, enjoy the search.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about your time at Middlebury?
My job has given me the opportunity to meet many Chinese writers, poets, musicians, and filmmakers who are first-rate artists and wonderful people. I’m very grateful for this.