Brandy Radoias, August 30, 2008
Entering his third year at PUC, English/history major Peter Katz is not only pursuing two majors, but he is also a part of the Honors program as well as being well on his way to earning his AS in music. He writes poetry, writes articles for the Campus Chronicle, plays the piano and aspires to someday earn his Ph.D. in “some kind of literature.” And, oh yeah, he is a black belt in karate. In short, Peter is a walking definition of an academic overachiever — but not the grating, know-it-all kind (although he does “know a lot,” he jokes); what sets Peter apart from many of his overachieving brethren is his genuine zeal for learning.
As a fellow English major, I’ve gotten to know and interact with Peter in various classes and I can testify to his sincerity as well as his intellect. He does not spout off Aristotelian theory or share his take on the Peloponnesian War just to bask in the sound of his own voice, but because those are the types of things that he is passionate about. He is the type of individual who loves to be surrounded by ideas, something that reflects in his goal of someday becoming a college professor. “I want to teach because I love learning and I want to get back to a learning community,” he says.
A fifth-generation PUC (future) graduate, Peter certainly keeps himself busy academically, adding a BA in history to his curriculum — because “literature and history are inseparable” — and an AS in music as a tribute to his mother, who also graduated from PUC with a music degree. In fact, “my piano teacher now was her piano teacher then,” he says. On top of it all, he is also a member of the Honors program, which has turned out to be an immensely gratifying experience for Peter. “Honors has been really helpful for helping me … look outside what I thought I knew and realize how much I don’t know,” he confesses.
Although he jokingly refers to himself as an “elitist jerk,” in reality, Peter is a humble person and an eager student. When he discovered at the end of last year that he had been selected for both the Walter Utt Scholarship for History and the Franklin and Laurie Hoyt Scholarship for English (no surprise there), he was completely bewildered. “I’m of course very honored and rather unworthy [of these awards],” he says. But then, Peter admits he is usually inclined to “not see [himself] as worthy of any great recognition.” Nonetheless, he is extremely grateful to the award donors for assuming some of his financial responsibility and appreciates their desire to proactively support Christian education, something he plans on doing in his own way someday. “I feel that a philosophically safe learning environment is important,” he says, “and I am leaning strongly toward working in the Adventist system just because of what I owe the community.”
Meanwhile, Peter is happy to play the pretentious intellectual that others expect him to be, crossing his legs here, tenting his fingers there. Sometimes I swear he belongs inside an old-fashioned smoking jacket. Granted, his physical appearance does nothing to shatter this projected image; at 6 feet 6 inches, Peter’s slender frame, riotously curly hair and patrician features give him the likely look of an eccentric academic. Ultimately, it turns out that God and nature worked in his favor, because “eccentric academic” is exactly what my friend Peter aspires to be.