Ageless Wisdom, Youthful Heart
For more than 50 years, philosophy professor Rentaro Hashimoto, Ph.D. has been making an impression on the College.
Long-Serving Philosophy Professor Makes Lasting Impression
From humming Don Giovanni arias in the halls, to the unique way he conducts a class, associate professor of philosophy Rentaro Hashimoto, Ph.D. is one of the most memorable and beloved professors at Manhattan College.
Hashimoto started at Manhattan College nearly 50 years ago, in the fall of 1962. During his long tenure at the College, he has served as department chair and has taught a wide range of philosophy courses. His inspirational energy and ability to engage his students have made Hashimoto one of the most well-known and beloved professors on campus.
“He’s very young at heart,” says David Bollert, Ph.D., a fellow faculty member in the Philosophy department. “He’s in his early 80s, and he has the wisdom of someone who’s in his early 80s, but he genuinely has the heart of someone many decades younger. And that type of energy, that type of bearing, is very healthy for the department.”
“I think he is so well-received because he removes the wall between human being and professional,” says Piara Ciccone ’10, a sociology major. “He’s not afraid to be warm, to say what’s on his heart, be affectionate, or even just be silly. In that way, I think he is able to make an impression on people on a deeper level.”
Before becoming a professor, Hashimoto had not stopped to look to the future.
“I didn’t plan to do anything,” Hashimoto says. “I was a professional student.”
Hashimoto received his B.A. from City College of New York, his M.A. from the University of Mexico, and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University. Having always had a love for languages, Hashimoto did not foresee himself teaching, but he “kind of wandered into philosophy.” His experiences in Mexico taught him more than just what he learned in the classroom.
“It’s not so much what I learned in school, but being exposed to the culture was more educational,” Hashimoto says. “What amused me was how relaxed Mexicans were about education. What I learned from that was education should be fun. It shouldn’t be a grim progress as it is for so many teachers and students. So I incorporated that element in my teaching.”
In the classroom, Hashimoto looks to engage as many students in the class discussion as possible. He looks at his engagement with his students using a metaphor.
“I use kind of a baseball image,” Hashimoto says. “The teacher, as the pitcher, has to have many pitches in his repertoire — highball, low balls, curve balls. But if you pitch too low, then the brighter students get bored, so you have to surprise them.”
“He’s been here since 1962, and if I had my way, he’d be here for another 50 years.”
Hashimoto often teaches the PHIL 150 Roots: Philosophy course, which many students take as part of their core curriculum requirements. While many of Hashimoto’s students are not philosophy majors, he hopes that teaching them about philosophy can inform their lives well beyond graduation.
“I don’t expect [all of my students] to become philosophers or philosophy majors,” Hashimoto says. “But regardless of what they major in, I like to think that philosophy, even though they don’t expect it, will be in some way useful in their lives.”
“Even if philosophy isn't necessarily your thing, when taught by Hashimoto, it translates well to other disciplines,” says Stephanie Brooks ’13, a communication major.
With his many years dedicated to the institution, Hashimoto has seen the College adapt and face challenges that only a professor having taught that long could fully understand. With this knowledge, he provides a valuable viewpoint on the school.
“He has seen Manhattan College go through a number of significant changes, as we’ve seen significant cultural changes in the United States over the last 50 years,” says Bollert. “He’s been here since 1962, and if I had my way, he’d be here for another 50 years.”