This archived article was written by: Niki Muth
As reporters always seek new faces and events, we sometimes let those who have been at USU-CEU for a while slip through the cracks, not intentionally, but find people are more concerned with the newer faces than the ones we have seen on campus everyday.
So often students shuffle by, viewing professors as homework machines, never stopping to realize that each one of these people have a life and a past, regrets and goals, hopes and dreams.
Take Larry Severeid; no doubt plenty of readers have had him as a teacher. Most of them think of Severeid as one of the craziest and hardest professors on campus, and they would be right: the homework, the long papers, and not to forget the insane classroom presence.
He grew up in Los Angeles, Calif., living in a home located on a cul-de-sac that was the hang out for all the kids in the neighborhood. He had a fairly normal, hyperactive childhood. Always outside, always playing, and a love for sports were more than enough to keep him busy.
As a kid, Severeid really didn’t put much effort into school, or even thinking of a future like other kids; about all he knew was he wanted to play baseball (his father had also told him that he had an uncle, Hank Severeid, that played for the 1927 New York Yankees, but that was about all he knew of his uncle, and of his natural sports potential).
While he was a child, he was a strange mixture of two of the classic classroom positions: the shy kid in the back, and the class clown. “I didn’t have anything to say unless it was a smart a** remark,” he spoke”;I was the kid that ended up in the principal’s office every year being asked ‘Why aren’t you doing anything?’”
When he reached high school, his main objective was baseball, but that enthusiasm was soon replaced by concerts and music, from which, if you didn’t know, stemmed his appetite for good tunes (if you want to hear good, I suggest a recommendation from Severeid). He went to his first concert at 15; Buffalo Springfield (Two of the band members were Neil Young and Stephen Stills, from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young). From then on, he went to concerts every weekend.
He saw so many well known musicians, many before they were even famous. “ I never went to see the Beatles, didn’t want to be around a bunch of screaming people; but I never went to see the (Rolling) Stones, man I regret that; of course I saw them later……but I rather see bands in a club setting. I don’t like seeing ‘em in stadiums.” Some of the other musicians he has seen include Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. He estimates he has been to about 500 concerts; “My greatest regret in life?…I didn’t become a musician.”
He didn’t really get into literature until college. And he really didn’t know he was going to be teaching until he almost had earned his bachelor’s degree. While attending the University of California, Los Angeles, he went into a teaching program, where he taught at community college (Pierce Community College). He had to learn, as well as teach, under two master teachers. One of his teachers was Jean Wilkinson, an old drill sergeant of a teacher, “ …she was like an old schoolmarm.”
The other, whom he favored far more, was Gerry Carson, who went to UCLA as well. Carson would write lots of books, mostly “pulp-trash novels” under a penname. Carson loved to write and UCLA would have a competition every year amongst the art and English departments,;Carson had written a novel one year and was beaten in the competition by a kid in the film department, Francis Ford Coppola.
Severeid has spent many years teaching at CEU, so it is undeniable that he has done more than teach English. He has acted in plays and even directed some. The first time he was in a play was in the ‘80s; he was the lead and the entire play was set in-the-round. He was terrified the whole time and was glad when intermission arrived. He later got back on stage and the first thing on his mind was “why can I see everyone so clearly?” He had forgotten to take his glasses off when he went back on stage and had quickly went from terrified to horrified, especially since he could see so clearly. All in all, he liked his stage experiences at CEU.
Along with his massive music collection, he has a large book collection as well. He likes many books and authors, touting off a long list including those he found has found most life changing: Wallace Stevens, William Faulkner, John Fowles and Kate Chopin. The genres he reaches for most seem to be fiction, plays and poetry.
Though he seems, at times, the toughest professor on campus, his favorite part of teaching has always been the classroom. “I really didn’t want to teach public school because the students were forced to go…..in college the students in the classroom either want or need to be there, so I can be as crazy as I want, I love it.” Which, in a way, sounds maniacal, but he truly loves contact with students; he even likes advising them.
What he really does not like about teaching is giving out grades, and perhaps worse than giving the grades are the grade grubs; the people who are always unsatisfied with their grades. He hates the paperwork.
He likes teaching at CEU and even living here, but the one thing he said is that the biggest strengths of this town is also its biggest weakness; it is very isolated.
Severeid has accomplished a lot with an energetic mind and an eclectic soul. He stays in the now and keeps moving foreword with his life.