His fondest memories of teaching at Reed are his lectures for the humanities courses and discussions with students in literature classes. An actor since he was in the seventh grade--"I have a streak of ham in me a yard wide," he says--Svitavsky says that being in front of a class has been a "joy."
"Acting made it easier for me to relate to the students," he says. "There are some people who have no experience in dialogue, and acting helped me do that."
Svitavsky was, for many years, a "mainstay of the Humanities 110 program," says Peter J. Steinberger, dean of the faculty. "He has been a long-time contributor and a popular teacher. Students loved his lectures."
Svitavsky particularly enjoys performing Shakespeare and has appeared in at least 15 plays. He also acted professionally in summer stock, on television, and on film. He played a detective in a 1977 television film called The Possessed, starring Harrison Ford, James Farentino, and Joan Hackett; most of it was filmed at Reed. "Harrison Ford was a very nice guy," Svitavsky says.
In retirement, Svitavsky plans to publish some of the papers he wrote while teaching. He also will continue taking painting classes and making ceramic sculpture. He and his wife will live in a house they bought a few years ago in Racine, Wisconsin, where Svitavsky grew up.
At the faculty luncheon honoring the three retirees, Peter Steinberger called Ottomar Rudolf the "mayor of Eliot Hall." Rudolf, a professor of German and humanities, laughs at the reference when asked why he might have been given that designation.
"Probably because I have lived here almost all my academic life," he says. "They have seen me at Eliot for over 35 years. It has been my life. Other people come and go, but I stayed."
He stayed, he says, because "I fell in love with Reed, I fell in love with the Northwest."