Trachtenberg reflects on higher education at literary festival

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Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s told those gathered at D.C.’s Jewish Literary Festival Wednesday night that “education needs to be classy without being fashionable.”

His talk came on the closing night of the Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival where he spoke about higher education, his experiences as GW president and his newest book, “Big Man on Campus: A University President Speaks Out on Higher Education.”

“University spending is endless because there is always something to make better,” Trachtenberg said.

His wife, Francine, who moderated the dialogue, joined Trachtenberg.

The two conversed on higher education’s most pressing issues such as tuition costs and resource availability, while slipping into the conversation a couple of Trachtenberg’s most sentimental anecdotes ranging from his childhood to his studies at Columbia University.

A 1959 graduate of Columbia, Trachtenberg said it was the drastic changes that he saw between his and his son’s college experiences that caused him to see the transformations within higher education.

“For one thing, there were no women next door when I went to school,” Trachtenberg said.

With several decades of higher education experience and his signature wit, he shared one of his most important lessons.

“Parents will always send their kids to college because they will get bored with them and want to resume their sex lives,” he said.

Trachtenberg, who currently writes a blog for The Chronicle of Higher Education, will continue his book and education lectures throughout the year.

Southeastern University President Charlene Jarvis, who introduced Trachtenberg, praised him as a “unique leader within the city,” and one who has “moved (GW) from being a commuter school to one that is now internationally known.”

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