B The Michigan DailyWeekend gze Thursday, January 28, 1999
) & A with Sidney Fine: 50
rearls and still teaching strong
The Michigan My Weekeni'Maga
'Star Wars' prequel
poised to be year s
biggest movie event
Reel roll call: What to expect at the m
Feb. 26: "Deep in End of the Ocean"
March 5: "Analyze This," "Cruet Intentions"
March 19: "The King and 1"
March 26: "EDtv, "Go"
Apr11 2: "The Mod Squad,"
April 23: "Idle Hands"
May 21: "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace"
Summer: "Bowfinger's Big Thing," "Mystery Men," "Notting
y Arts Writer
.SA senior Greg Epstein is just one
he thousands of students who have
n history Prof. Sidney Fine's stu-
ts - yet he will not soon forget
He just gives really good, solid,
>rrative, well-reflected lectures. He
the experience of the time," Epstein
1. "He gives you a point of view that
aid be impossible to find anywhere
, and he brings it to you with a
nanity that few others have."
ine, now in his 50th year as a pro-
or at the University and his 77th in
world, is indeed appreciated for his
lication to both his students and
:hing and for his sedulous habits -
is the author of I1 books, for exam-
, and still logs in a 70-hour work-
-k. He considers himself to be "very
ky" to be doing what he likes, an
icat n of the passion he has for his-
y, and maintains that it is his
sponsibility" to give his students an
>reciation of history. The Daily
ently spoke with Fine about his
ieriences in life and at Michigan.
[he Michigan Daily: What about
en you were in school yourself as an
idney Fine: My undergraduate
rk was at Western Reserve
iversity in Cleveland and I graduated
1942 and was 1-A in the draft and I
I a few graduate offers and the
rantage of Michigan, apart from
ng a fine school, was that they had a
iegr system and I was hoping I
ild start in June, would finish one
wester, then complete the fall semes-
ter, and have my Master's degree by
December. So I applied for a deferment
until Jan. 1 so I could get a Master's
degree, and I never heard a word from
them. And then one day in the fall - I
had finished the first term - and it was
about midterm time of the second term
- my mom mailed me a copy of the
Phi Beta Kappa ... and it mentioned
that a Lieutentant Commander Hienrich
was going to be in the Michigan Union.
In fact he was in the Michigan Union
for several days, and it was the last day
and the last afternoon, and he was inter-
viewing Phi Beta Kappa recipients for a
possible admission to a United States
Navy Japanese language training
school. You were guaranteed a com-
mission and it would be at least a year
at the University of Colorado, studying.
My wife Jean and I were, what in those
days was called, going steady, and
wanted to get married and I had no
income, but anyhow, I called the Union.
It was late in the afternoon, about three
or four o'clock and the Lieutentant
interviewed me to make sure I was a Phi
Beta recipient. I could have said any-
thing theoretically; I didn't have to pro-
duce documents. He wanted to know
what languages I'd had, and then he
said, "Ok, sign here."
TMD :What were the languages you
SF: I had French and German and
Latin in school. I knew Hebrew and
Yiddish but that was irrelevant, of
course (laughs). But anyhow, he said,
"Sign here." And you know, I was kind
of a kid; I was 22-years old, 21-years
old. I said, "Can I call my mother? Can
I call my girlfriend?" "No. You've got to
sign right now." It was the first time I'd
been away from home, you understand,
and I was really young in that sense.
But it sounded like a lot better deal than
being a draftee in the army. Sounded
like a great deal. I was going to get a
commission for certain. So I did sign,
and it turned out it was fourteen months
of training. I had gotten married to
Jean. I was a married student so I was
allowed to live off base. I had taken
midterms (at the University) but I had-
n't finished the term. I had all As, and
my mom said, "Why don't you write
and see if they'll give you some credit."
I thought, "That's ridiculous,' but it was
wartime and they gave me two-thirds
credit for practically every course.
They were more generous because of
the war... and I got ten hours of gradu-
ate credit for the University, of
Colorado, though I was in the Navy So
my master's degree comes to ine while
I'm in the service, which seems kind of
peculiar ... So I got my master's degree,
and I was finished in fourteen months,
and was commissioned.
TMD: What brought you to history
in the first place?
SF: In the fourth grade I was admit-
ted to a class for supposedly gifted chil-
dren, based on an IQ test. This is in
Cleveland, which had a very progres-
sive school system, and from fourth to
sixth grade we had one teacher, just a
few of us, and we got French instruction
... most afternoons, as I recall it, we
didn't have formal classes. For at least
a part of the day we were just allowed to
read in, what seemed to a child a very
big library. Now my library at home is
bigger than that was, but anyway, I read
University history Prof. Sidney Fine Is In his 50th year as a professor - making
him the most senior faculty member on campus.
a lot of history and historical fiction.
And in the morning the teacher would
always say, "Johnny, what did you
read?" Somewhere in the time, I said I
think I'd like to become a history
teacher. I had no idea what that meant,
except that I'd be a teacher and looked
like fun.... So really that was in my
mind from a very early age. I stuck
with it. The only career I ever consid-
ered. Teaching always sort of appealed
to me. Teachers, I always had good
teachers. I wasn't sure what that really
meant, you understand, I was just a kid.
But you know, it was the only profes-
sion I ever seriously considered.
TMD: What about life in general?
Have you learned due to your research?
SF: I often say as, a teacher, that chance
is inevitable. You can't explain everything
in history by cause and effect. A lot of it
is sheer chance. That's one thing you
learn; your luck can change in a second,
the circumstances may not be what you're
looking for. I think I've learned a lot about
the complexity of human existence, all the
factors that impinge on you at any one
time. Most of us don't sit around and
reflect on ourselves, but I'm always
reflecting on historical characters, and
pressed with the chance factor, things
become hard to explain. Life, it's pretty
complex. The more you study history the
more you realize how difficult it is to
explain things accurately.
TMD: How do you think Michigan
has changed in the last 50 years.
SF: Oh, it's changed in lots of ways.
TMD: Does that correspond to how
your approach to history has changed?
SF: Well, some of it is factually
demonstrable. It was a world class uni-
versity when I first came here, and it's
still very distinguished. No problem with
that, but of course it was a lot smaller. I
think when I came in '42 there were only
1,4000, something like that, and the com-
plexion of the student body and of the
faculty was very different than today. It
was lily white, pretty much. There were
some women professors, but it was pre-
dominantly male. The faculty came from
all over, the student body has always
Idrawn, because of it's distinction, froro
gutside of the state, Just under a third of
undergrads were from out of state, and
graduates, from all over the world.
Michigan always had, for a state universi-
ty, a pretty cosmopolitan atmosphere. A
lot of my friends were not from
Michigan. The student body was not like
today, where we have something like 20
The faculty is something like 25 per-
cent minority, and I think about 12 per-
cent African-American, so the com-
plexion, the diversity of the university is
one of the most conspicuous changes.
TMD: Does that relate somehow to a
change of attitude ion campus?
SF: Well, if you look at the courses,
there more diverse also. We weren't
teaching women's history, (black) histo-
ry, all the things they do now. But any-
way, we were smaller, but we were bet-
ter supported by the state. I think it was
something like the state contribution
exceeded the student tuition by four to
one, and if I'm not mistaken, we get
more student tuition than state support,
so tuition has gone way, way up. The
state legislature at that time thought of
us as this great world class University
that they were proud to support but....
TMD: What are some of your most
general thoughts about your experi-
ences at Michigan?
SF: It's a great university. I love
being here. Good students, good facul-
ty, good facilities, I like Ann Arbor.
TMD: How do you feel the history
department has changed most?
SF: Well, most diverse offerings.
History and English were always the two
subjects in which women were tradition-
ally enrolled but we had maybe one
woman professor. The curriculum is more
diverse. Back then I probably didn't real-
ize how limited it was. In retrospect,
though, yes, it was limited. Our view of
the world was a little more restricted than
it is today. So we cover just about every-
thing under the sun now, more topics and
more areas. I think that's the difference.
This reflects, to some degree, what's
going on in the world. Universities are, of
course, affected by what goes on in the
world. They're probably a little slower to
change in some instances, but they do
Continued from Page 2B
"Idle Hands" (April 23) -Teen-
mag "Tiger Beat" pinup Devon
Sawa's right hand turns homicidal
while the rest of him remains sane.
His unpleasantness is balanced out
by the devilishly handsome and sar-
donic Seth Green in this comedy-
"Notting Hill" (Summer) -
Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts team
up with the crew from "Four
Weddings and a Funeral." The sure-
to-be-stuttering Grant plays the
owner of a travel bookstore.
Roberts, in a daring career move,
plays the world's biggest movie star.
If this movie doesn't break the bank,
"Bowfinger's Big Thing"
(Summer) - More like
"Bowfinger's Big Cast," what with
Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Robert
Downey, Jr. and Heather Graham on
board. Martin plays a producer who
can't get a break to save his soul, so
he decides to make a movie with the
action star of the moment. Whether
or not the action star knows he's in
the movie is another question entire-
"Mystery Men" (Summer) -
Movie gods Ben Stiller, Hank
OR A POEM YOU
CALL DAILY ARTS
AT 763-0379 FOR
with the University?
Need help making
sense of your
U of M experience?
Azaria, William H. Macy, Paul "Pee-
Wee Herman" Reubens, Janeane
Garofalo, Wes Studi and Kel
Mitchell are a rag-tag group of
pathetically untalented superheroes
who are forced to actually save their
city when the local comic kingpin
(Greg Kinnear) is abducted by evil
baddies Lena Olin and Geoffrey
Rush. Think what you will about the
plot, but any movie that has a char-
acter named Casanova Frankenstein
seems like it would be O.K. at least
from this end.
Look out for many movies that
people around campus don't know
much about - beyond the fact that
they desperately want to see them.
Some of the most notable members
of this category include
"Rushmore," "Office Space,"
"eXistenZ," "Dick," "American
Pie," "Eyes Wide Shut" and "Austin
Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged
Also, you may want to keep an eye
out for a little-known and unantici-
pated independent film called "Star
Wars Episode I: The Phantom
Menace" (May 21). Rumor around
tinsel town has it that the force is
back - in force, no less - and it
has the power to sink the "big
ship's" box office record to the bot-
tom of the sea.