Chester (Chet) Schnepf (M.A. ’74)
Professor Chester Schnepf Q & A:
What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
I had two classes which I remember fondly because of the professors who taught them. Dr. Frank S. Lambasa taught a very enlightening course on Franz Kafka in his office to a small group of us. It was great! I also remember a very gentle soul who taught me the poetry of W.B. Yeats. His name was Dr. William Hull. He once wrote me a letter and said, after reading my poems that “I was a poet born.” I never forgot his kindness for writing such a warm and encouraging statement. My fondest memory of Hofstra was sitting in Hofstra’s “little theatre” audience while poet Allen Ginsberg performed his poetry.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
I was an adjunct professor for many years at various colleges in Connecticut while also teaching at private and public schools as an English teacher/lecturer. In my free time, which was not a lot, I would write and paint. In retrospect, Hofstra taught me to always face the academic challenges head on. Whenever I did poorly on a paper or test I would double my efforts. I would always discuss the matter with my professor and commit to doing better. Hofstra taught me determination even if at the time I thought it was a losing battle.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
Teaching has always been a “calling” for me. I cannot think of any other field I would be happy or even fit to do. I just think teaching is special, and you have to devote your life to it to truly be a fine teacher. You keep learning along with your students year after year. What could be more rewarding? I guess my field of specialty is being a life- long student of the arts and being with my students.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Dedicate yourself to your academics. Hofstra is a gift given to you; be alert and be involved!
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
Who in your field do you most admire?
This could be a rather long list. However my favorites are E. A. Poe, Jonathan Carroll, E.L. Doctorow, J.S. LeFanu, David Mamet, Tennessee Williams and Albert Camus.
How do you balance work and life?
I have been fortunate to do what I love. Being a college professor is my life.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
Certainly having the privilege of being a professor who has spent much of his adult life more than 30 years now teaching my students to make the best of their life journey and always give back more than you take from others.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see your career progressing to in the future?
At age 63, this is a question – perhaps the only question – I don’t have an answer to. I hope still in the classroom, still writing and still painting. I hope.
Chester (Chet) Schnepf (M.A. ’74) grew up as the “problem” child who never stopped questioning everything about school, what teachers said and the curriculum they taught. Their solution, back then, was simple. In the 1950s such a student was placed with his desk and chair in the back of the classroom so engaging the teacher would be much more difficult. In fact, during one academic school year, Chet found himself with desk and chair in the “walk-in” classroom closet for a stay that lasted the entire school year. But all is not sad in this true story, for in this closet were books on the shelf of all sorts that Chet read each day on his own after quickly finishing up his folder with assignments given to him by his teacher. Here, he would read The Iliad, The Odyssey,and The March of Archaeology by C.W. Ceram, and literary works by Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman. There seemed to be an endless assortment of books. In short, his confinement in the “closet” became a breath of fresh air, an independent study break. Here, he would also decide to write poetry and to someday be a teacher where he could engage and ask interesting questions and, in return, try to respond to questions presented by others.
With elementary school behind him, Chet went on to complete a B.F.A. in communications and literature (cum laude) from New York Institute of Technology, a Master of Arts (with distinction) from Hofstra University, and a certificate of advanced study from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Over the years, he has authored several books, namely: Thoughts in Nine (poetry), The Sadness in Pine Needles Falling (poetry) and The Protagonist’s Dilemma in Poe and LeFanu: The Emergence of the Modern Gothic Tradition. Recently, he was a speaker on a radio documentary concerning the life and works of E.A. Poe produced by Fairleigh Dickinson University, along with completing a fellowship at Yale University focused on the Gothic literature of America and Ireland. He is a professor of literature and philosophy and chair of the Humanities Department at Gateway Community College in New Haven, CT.
Besides teaching and writing, Chet also enjoys painting. Over the years, his works have appeared in a few one-person art shows in Connecticut. Although for the past 12 or more years he has been the chair of the Humanities Department at Gateway Community College, his true passion is the classroom where he still teaches literature and philosophy. In 2012 Chet was honored to be the grand marshal for Gateway’s graduation ceremony. Chet and his family continue to live in New Haven, CT, and it should be noted with pride that his daughter Heather is a communication major at Hofstra University in her senior year and is totally enjoying the Hofstra experience! Chet has just recently become a member of Hofstra’s Parent Council.
All in all, Chet managed to move from the back of the classroom – and even the classroom closet – to the front of the room. Not bad for a kid who asked too many questions!