A Man With Many Talents: Suffolk University Professor Ken Greenberg Enjoys Success in Various Areas

8/5/2002

By Tony Ferullo

Kenneth S. Greenberg sits backs in his chair and calmly looks out the window of his corner office on the 25th Floor of One Beacon Street. A smile crosses his face as he talks about the continued growth of Suffolk University, where he has been educating students for a quarter century.

"It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come over the years," said Greenberg, who has been a professor at Suffolk University since 1978 and is Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Chairman of the History and Philosophy departments. "We have gone from a local school in downtown Boston to a school which is today recognized on a national and international level, particularly with our campuses in Madrid, Spain and Dakar, Senegal in West Africa. We not only have students from all over the country attending Suffolk; we have them from all over the world."

A sense of pride is reflected in his voice. "I love working with the students and the classes are electrifying," said the 54-year-old Greenberg, a longtime Newton resident. "I cannot imagine a more exciting place to teach."

Entering his 25th year at Suffolk, Greenberg has developed a reputation as a professor of history who is demanding, concerned and understanding. When it comes to teaching, he gives everything he has and expects the same total effort from his students. "I respect my students and I listen to what they have to say," said Greenberg. "I also push them to reach their potential. History is a complicated subject and I expect the students to master very difficult material. This takes hard work, but with the effort comes great rewards. My students learn to understand themselves as they come to understand the past."

When he’s not standing in front of a classroom, Greenberg can be found perched behind a movie camera. Two years ago, Greenberg and his film colleagues were awarded an $800,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to produce a documentary film examining the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion of 1831. The film, entitled "Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property," analyzes one of the most significant slave rebellions in our nation’s history as both a historical event and a subject of historical memory.

Greenberg is serving as co-producer, co-writer, and historian for the project. He is working with Academy Award-nominated documentary film producer Frank Christopher and critically acclaimed feature film director Charles Burnett. It will be the first film to depict portions of William Styron’s controversial 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Confessions of Nat Turner," as well as the first to present the powerful African-American critique of the book contained in, "Ten Black Writers Respond."

Although the release of "Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property" is expected early next year, the first local viewing of the film will be October 24 as part of the Lowell Lecture Series in the C. Walsh Theatre on the Suffolk University campus.

Greenberg and his film colleagues have also begun work on a second film project, documenting the most significant current attempts to dramatically improve the quality of American medical care. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has supported this project with a major planning grant and now the filmmakers are ready to move into the production of a series of important documentaries -- some intended for medical professionals and some for a PBS national audience.

"When I write books and articles, they are a way of reaching a population beyond the classroom," said Greenberg. "Producing and writing a film reaches an even wider audience. It involves teaching on a vast stage."

Greenberg has written two important books that have established his reputation as a leading scholar of slavery and the American South: "Masters and Statesmen: The Political Culture of American Slavery," published by Johns Hopkins; and "Honor and Slavery: Lies, Duels, Noses, Masks, Dressing as a Woman, Gifts, Strangers, Humanitarianism, Death, Slave Rebellions, The Proslavery Argument, Baseball, Hunting and Gambling in the Old South," published by Princeton University Press. In addition, he has edited, "The Confessions of Nat Turner and Related Documents," the standard analysis and collection of documents widely used by students of slavery throughout the country, and is editor of "Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory" to be published by Oxford University Press in 2003.

Professor. Administrator. Film Producer. Author. Historian. Now you can add fund-raiser to Greenberg’s list of expertise. He is presently co-chair (along with Suffolk University athletic director Jim Nelson) of a first-ever capital campaign to raise $1.2 million devoted solely to Suffolk University’s College of Arts and Sciences and its students, while at the same time paying tribute to Dean Michael R. Ronayne for his 30 years of service as an educator and leader. A festive dinner celebration in honor of Dean Ronayne will be held on September 19, 2002 at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston.

"The Campaign for the College is going exceptionally well," said Greenberg. "People who have attended Suffolk know that the school is always willing to help others, so when it’s time for the school to request something from them, they’re more than willing to give back."

Conquering new challenges is nothing new to Ken Greenberg. In his spare time, he can be found exploring the White Mountains or the Canadian Rockies. "I love to hike," said Greenberg, whose travels have led him through Canada, Italy, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. "Hiking with family and friends is like going to a seminar in beautiful surroundings -- with no walls and no time limits."

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