Title: Associate professor of American history, Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach.
Other job experience: Former reporter for weekly newspaper in Maryland; Former Bible and social science teacher at Inter-American School, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala; former English teacher at International School of the Humanities, St. Petersburg, Russia; former social science teacher, Lincoln Trail College, Robinson, Ill.
Education: Degree in political science, University of Maryland, College Park; master's degree in intercultural studies, Wheaton College; Ph.D. in American culture studies and history, Bowling Green State University.
Personal: Age 51. Born in Washington, D.C.
Family: Married to Deborah, an underwriter at NCCI, Boca Raton. Two daughters.
Has teaching in other countries affected your work at PBA?
It was because of doing ministry that I wanted to get more education. I read "The Silent Language," by Edward T. Hall, a classic about cross-cultural communication. It opened my mind. So I went to Wheaton for cultural studies. After Russia, I thought more about my own country and went for doctoral studies.
What's the one most mistaken impression about religion and culture?
Everyone wants to make it a sharp dualism. It has to be very religious, almost fundamentalist, or it has to be secular. I would argue that some secular values are permeated with a religious ethos. Like the idea of justice or the idea that people are important. When someone says "That's not fair," it has a moral significance.
Favorite part of your work?
I like to make people think, see students when a lightbulb goes off in their heads.
Grading papers. I try to grade very carefully. If you don't italicize a book title, I'll mark it every time.
Favorite vacation spot?
The best place I've ever been is the Lake District of England. It's just so beautiful. I went there before I was married. I had a collection of Wordsworth poems and read them there. I've told my wife I want go there with her.
"Apocalypse Now." Brilliant but kind of weird. It has a connection with "Heart of Darkness." The deeper you go up the river, the more the mission brings out an inhumane aspect of yourself.
What person in history would you like most to meet?
Every once in a while, I ask what 12 people I'd like to have at a table. Most would be writers thinkers and creators. Like Lincoln, Jefferson, August Strindberg, Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway. But after dinner, you'd probably want them to go home, because they'd be hard to get along with.
Do you have a treasured possession?
What would you do if you had a year off?
It want to study something really in depth and try to write a book. One [topic] is about Russia and the United States: their history and attitudes toward each other. Another would be the history of atomic weaponry and nuclear development.
Any advice you'd give for others considering the vocation?
Be flexible. You're going to have more than one (vocation). People have to retool themselves throughout their lives. Their career is going to alter along the way.
What's the most important thing you've ever learned?
What my dad taught me. I was adopted into a blue-collar family. My dad had an eighth-grade education, but he was wise about how the world works. He said, "The world does not owe you a dime." That makes more sense as I get older. When you don't receive whatever you'd like, you're not so disappointed.
When you feel down, how do you revive spiritually?
It takes time. A preacher said that when you find it hard to pray, it's just your heart going through a desert period. It doesn't mean your faith is over. You just have to persevere, and there will be better days.
Motto, or favorite scripture verse?
"Now is the now of now." If you don't do what you want to do now, you probably won't do it.
Do you know someone we should profile? Tell James D. Davis, Religion Editor, Sun Sentinel, at 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL. You may also e-mail him at JDDavis@Tribune.com or call at 954-356-4730.