Peter the Great for Our Time

Last night over 700 people gathered in Ashland, Ohio, to honor Peter Schramm, the long-time director of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, and one of the great classroom teachers of our time. Peter has fought off cancer for the last several years, but a few weeks ago his doctor delivered a very grim diagnosis. His many friends didn’t want to wait passively on the sidelines.

Born American copyWith a New Orleans jazz band providing the musical backdrop for the festivities, Ashbrook Center director Roger Beckett conducted a “conversation” (Peter’s favorite term) about Peter with Larry Arnn, Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Jeff Sikkenga, Lucas Morel, and David Tucker. A new scholarship and library in Peter’s name were announced.  Then Peter came out and spoke for about 10 minutes in one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen a human being do anywhere, at any time. (Among other things, he declared “I couldn’t possibly be any happier than I am.”)  I may have some of the video at a later time, but for people familiar with the phenomenal “last lecture” of Randy Pausch a few years ago, this was every bit as excellent and profound. If you want to get a small flavor of it, and if you never read anything else by Peter, see “Born American, But in the Wrong Place.” Or, as the mockup National Review cover nearby captures it: “The Amazing Story of the Cigar-Chomping Hungarian Who Explained America to Americans.”

Peter’s body may be giving out, but he is not. He’s still in the classroom every day this summer.  Two years ago I sat down and interviewed Peter for about 90 minutes, and posted a couple of short excerpts here at the time.  I thought it appropriate to repost both of these excerpts today. Meanwhile, I’ll be going back through the other hour-plus of material for more in the coming days and weeks. Jonah Goldberg said Peter was the definition of a mensch. I’ll just go with Peter the Great.

Chris Flannery and Peter, best friends of 50 years.

Chris Flannery and Peter, best friends of 50 years.

UPDATE: Seth Leibsohn of Patriot Radio in Arizona had me on Tuesday afternoon to talk about Peter and related things. Here’s the link.