Meet Irwin Arieff, BFS (GH) Class of '68!
I wasn't invited into the General Honors Program when I first showed up at Penn in September 1964, but made the Dean's List for my first semester and was asked to join at that time. What I remember now is a smart, friendly, unpretentious group of students who were very different from one another yet all very serious about learning. I also remember the brilliant professors.
But what I remember best is learning in ways I hadn’t been taught before. We dissected religious thought and philosophy—a heady experience for a kid right out of high school. And a series of units on the natural sciences made me realize that, rather than tuck away facts, I should be figuring out how to think about things in general.
Who can forget our physics instructor telling us how he got out of a speeding ticket? Seems he convinced a judge that the unusual shape of the front of his car distorted the reflection of radar waves.
One of the questions on his final exam asked us to design a special kind of diet. The question read something like this: Imagine that your friend has chosen to lose weight by moving away from you at rates approaching the speed of light. Making reasonable assumptions, calculate the speed at which your friend would have to travel to appear 10 percent thinner.
I ended up majoring in cultural anthropology, specializing in African studies, and, faced with the draft soon after graduation, ran off to join the Peace Corps in Senegal. I spent three years there, soaking up experiences that ended up molding my take on life more than anything else I’ve ever gone through. Returning home, I got a masters degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School and moved to Washington, DC, with my then girlfriend, now wife, Debby Baldwin (CW 1971).
I eventually ended up at the Washington bureau of the Reuters News Agency, where I started out reporting on corporate filings at the Securities and Exchange Commission and ended up as chief U.S. political correspondent. From there I went on to serve five years in the Reuters Paris bureau and, after that nearly seven years reporting on the United Nations in New York.
Long retired, I now write about foreign policy, books and restaurants for the UN-centric website, PassBlue.com. But most of the time I like to read other people’s reporting, and to cook and eat and spend time with friends and family, particularly our four-year-old granddaughter.
So far it’s been a great run.
- Irwin Arieff, College class of 1968