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Tuesday October 23rd 2018



Tom Gilbert’s Philosophy of Retirement

By Emily Domayer — When Tom Gilbert was a student at Morningside, Dimmitt’s informal lounge was the dining hall. It is one of many changes Gilbert has seen during his 42 years of teaching at Morningside. “We would sit at a big table. The food was served family style. It was a lot more close-knit.”

Professor Gilbert now plans to retire. He is a 1962 graduate of Morningside. A professor then encouraged him to study philosophy, now he is the chair of the philosophy department. Classes he has taught include Introduction to Philosophy and Philosophy of Love, Sex and Friendship.

One of Morningside’s urban legends is a story about a piano which took place when Gilbert was a student. At that time, the building across from the Plex now called the Conference Center, was a dorm. Gilbert lived there his senior year. “The piano was on the first floor, in an open lobby area. There were foreign exchange students from Africa living in the building. A few of them enjoyed playing the piano. That was fine, until they started to play at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, on the weekends.”

Gilbert, his roommate, and another student tried to get them to stop playing so early but with no success. “They stopped for a few weeks, and then went back to their early morning playing. Finally, we decided to tape the piano keys together, hoping they would get the message. They took the tape off and continued playing,” Gilbert mused with a laugh.

Their next tactic was to remove a part of the inside of the piano. “My roommate was one of the campus janitors, so he had a lot of the keys to campus buildings. We hid the inside of the piano in the observatory next to the science building.” The foreign exchange students found the inside of the piano and had it put back. The next week, Gilbert was on spring break. He came back and the piano was gone. The dean believed that Gilbert was somehow responsible for the piano’s disappearance. “I didn’t find out what really happened until the morning of graduation. My roommate claimed that he and one of our friends buried the piano outside the dorm.”

Gilbert is not sure what became of the piano. “A few years ago, some students wanted to find the piano. They went to Maintenance to ask for permission to dig it up. Maintenance told them that they took the piano to the dump years ago.”

During Gilbert’s time at Morningside, there have been vast changes in technology. He believes that not all of those current advancements are positive. “Facebook and Twitter are anti-social media. People are so consumed with being in contact with people they are not with, they hardly interact with each other in person.” He said that he has read that excessive use of computers rewires people’s brains so they will not concentrate as well. Gilbert said he tends to agree with that.

Gilbert does not have any definite plans for retirement. He said he will miss the intellectual stimulation of teaching and working with young people. At the end of the semester, Gilbert will pack up his Plato and Socrates books, leaving behind the same office he has had for 42 years.