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Better Know a Dean! with Martin Warner

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March 4, 2008

In this installment of the “Better Know a Dean” series, the Gazette interviews College registrar, Martin Warner, to learn a little bit more about the avid Mustache November participant outside of Add/Drop.

Daily Gazette: How did you come to Swarthmore?

Martin Warner: Well, I grew up hearing about Swarthmore as a child. I have a lot of extended family who actually attended Swarthmore, so I’ve always known it to be a fabulous school. When I was finishing up my master’s degree as well as 6th year as assistant registrar at Duke, Swarthmore’s previous registrar was retiring. So there I was putting myself on the market, and Swarthmore had a vacancy. I applied and interviewed, and here I am!

DG: When should students come to you?

MW: Any time they have any question about academic rules, graduation requirements, or anything they don’t quite understand. Sometimes, the rules may seem surprisingly rigid, and students can come to me so that we can explore options together. Things might not always turn out as expected, but there are usually a few options.

DG: What’s the toughest part of being a registrar?

MW: Saying no. I have to say no to heartfelt requests. It’s difficult, but it’s important to listen for the need. I may say no to the question, but hopefully, I can find a way to help the student fulfill his need in some other way. I guess the fun part of being a registrar is helping students realize and accomplish their goals.

DG: The College website profile on you states that: “Although now immersed in rules and regulations, Martin was once a long-haired hippie.” What’s that all about?

MW:Well, the [interviewer] was just tickled by the fact that I used to be a long haired hippie, you know, a flower child.

DG: Any interesting stories?

MW: Well, there were a variety of ways to be a hippie back then, and I was a geeky, A-student type of hippie. Mainly, I was an anti-war activist, and I would go to several anti-war demonstrations.

Touching back to the hippie thing though, I guess I was also one of those back-to-nature, counter-culture hippies. My uncle had some woodland, back-country in northern Wisconsin (near Rhinelander) that he allowed me to build a little log cabin on. The cabin itself didn’t have any electricity or running water or anything like that. That’s the way people were doing it. I ate natural foods; I still like natural foods. I did realize how difficult it was to do things without money though. I mean, there are only so many nettles one can eat.

DG: In addition to serving as the College’s Registrar, you are also Commodore of the Crum Regatta. How do you ready yourself for that kind of role?

MW: I have to grow out my sideburns, my lamb chops sideburns. There’s also my silly outfit, which mainly consists of a blue blazer with some decorations pinned on. Much of the costume is actually my son’s from an elementary school play, recycled ornamentation.

DG: Do you do anything to get into character?

MW: Let’s see. How about “I only eat red M&Ms the morning of the regatta”?

DG: If you could offer any type of course here, what would it be?

MW: My undergrad scholarship was in religious studies. I am still fascinated by religious studies. I’ve always wanted to do a course on the great heresies. Heresies inform us about religion in very interesting ways, rather differently than orthodoxies.

DG: Any last thoughts? Words of wisdom?

MW: I highly recommend that all students adopt a sport. Go to games as a fan. It’s fun!