Twenty years ago, when Jeff Aronson decided to make humanities programs a major part of his life, he decided to become "the guy who would go anywhere in any season" for New England's humanities councils. That prompted his decision to purchase a 1966 Land Rover as the vehicle of choice for "The Road Scholar."
The same capacity for field repairs worldwide that made Land Rovers legendary helped Jeff achieve his goal of becoming the "go to" humanities scholar when remoteness and/or weather concerns made other humanities program leaders reluctant to accept assignments.
Jeff's reliance on his Land Rover continues in 2011. For a look at programs he's leading in Maine, click here.
[This article appeared in the June, 2008 issue of Notes From an Open Book, a publication of the Maine Humanities Council]
A fervent enthusiasm for Land Rovers, the Boston Red Sox, and in-depth reading and discussions don’t always combine in the same person, but they do in Jeff Aronson. A scholar who has been with the MHC for almost two decades, Jeff is as well known for his willingness and ability to drive anywhere—and that means anywhere, any distance, through any weather—to facilitate Let’s Talk About It (or several other MHC programs) as he is for his ability to draw out even the most reticent participant.
Jeff facilitated his first Let’s Talk About It in Dexter in the early 1990s. Since then, he has facilitated programs from Kittery to Caribou and Fryeburg to Machias. Including discussion series that he has managed for other New England organizations, too, Jeff has led over 1,000 reading and discussion sessions in libraries, historical societies, factories, prisons and schools.
He is a favorite of Let’s Talk About It’s libraries. Marilyn Law, librarian at the Bristol Area Library, requests Jeff specifically every year. He knows his subjects, either through his experience as a professor, principal, editor and writer, management consultant, caretaker, scalloper, sea-urchin fisherman, and public television manager; or through his informal research. His sense of humor and the respect with which he listens to all participants wins admiration from this library, too.
Jeff has facilitated a wide variety of Let’s Talk About It series, bringing out deep issues from a wide range of themes, from detective fiction to Plato. Not long ago, a library requested the series “Individual Rights and the Community in America,” not an oft-requested series, and Jeff along with it. He led a discussion of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Plato’s Republic, Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Rousseau’s The Social Contract, and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Jeff made these texts come alive by linking them to current events and current issues of concern, helping people understand the connection between the theme and their own lives.
Creating the connection between books and lives is something Jeff has always been very good at. In the late 1990s, he helped create Stories For Life, which came out of other MHC reading and discussion programs that were being held in Maine prisons and jails. This program helps men and women in the probation and parole system use literature to reflect on their thoughts and experiences.
Jeff himself loves the work, as is evidenced by the number of miles of service racked up for the MHC on his Land Rover (known as the QE I by readers of The Rovers North News—edited by Jeff). He tells us, “The real delight of reading and discussion programs arises from the enthusiasm of readers at all levels in Maine’s towns and cities. Mainers clearly have ideas they want to share; every participant has taught me something. The shared act of reflecting upon a theme through works of literature never fails to invigorate me.”
[The complete article can be found here under Facilitator Profile]
Driving between Maine libraries, the Land Rover required an electrical repair in the driveway of an MHC office
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."