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Cigars & Academia

The hallowed halls of higher learning often contain a whiff of cigar.
Gene Crume
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 2)

There's little chance of that. In addition to his academic achievements, Hesburgh helped start John F. Kennedy's Peace Corps, has been awarded more honorary degrees than any person in the world (133) and was the recipient of the Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson.

Hesburgh's desire to be defined by his service rather than his pleasures is shared by an ally from across the Atlantic. Robert Eisenthal is a biochemist at the University of Bath in England and his progression to cigars mirrors Hesburgh's. Although he prefers to smoke an inexpensive Hamlet cigar as a daily indulgence, Eisenthal won't turn down a fine Cuban if offered. However, he, too, keeps his cigar smoking in perspective.

"I do actually enjoy it, but I have to admit it's an addiction as well," Eisenthal says in his acquired British accent. Born in England but educated at Amherst College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he has made his home in England since the mid-1960s, when he fell in love with a British woman while completing a fellowship at Cambridge.

Still, Eisenthal appreciates the residual benefits that accompany a cigar, like sharing a smoke and a pint of ale with a friend in a local pub. He doesn't see a cigar smoking craze in England like the one that is sweeping the States, but he does see the allure that a cigar has to conversation when enjoyed among friends.

It's an allure that attracts students as well. "I like to dive into debate both pro and con," says Rodney Cohen, a 30-year-old doctoral student at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College in Nashville. "This kind of debate helps me look at life through different lenses. The cigar is somewhat soothing and stimulating for intellectual discourse."

Cohen is a well-dressed, articulate young man who speaks like a professor of 25 years tenure. His academic experiences have assisted in his cool, comfortable demeanor. Cohen earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University). He remained at his alma mater to teach freshman chemistry and conduct biomedical research. After picking up a master's degree in student affairs (higher education administration), Cohen moved to Nashville to conduct his doctoral work. He hopes to parlay these experiences into a position in university administration.

He remains quite philosophical about his cigar passion, one that he has maintained since he was an undergraduate in Atlanta. "The cigar is artistic itself," he says. "It's not the act of smoking, but what the smoking represents. It's an act of pleasure."

Cohen also believes that where you buy your cigars is as important as what you smoke. After all, it is difficult to pick up the newest $100 biology book at Waldenbooks, as opposed to the campus bookstore. The same goes for the choice of tobacco shop. "At the tobacco shop I frequent, there is almost always a game of backgammon or chess," says Cohen. "I find myself smoking my first cigar there and getting into a conversation with the others in the shop."

Some 60 miles to the north at Western Kentucky University, talk flows just as freely at the Bowling Green Pipe and Tobacco Shoppe. Lee Davis has been selling cigars to faculty members and administrators of Western for several years. On any given day, her shop is full of conversation from many of the local townsfolk, who are often waxing philosophical. Some of them linger, while others add their two cents worth while purchasing their cigars and then leave.

English professors, development officers and even the men's basketball coach wander in and out of her establishment and its walk-in humidor, much like undergrads frequent the campus student center. This scene isn't unlike that of many tobacco shops around other college campuses. It is the culture of college.

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