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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 1)

"The self-image of an anthropologist is of a bit wilder and unbridled person, perhaps bearded and dripping with native decorations from research locations," Pollock says. "The cigar feeds into that sense of self-certainty for an anthropologist. It is the extension of university life and the kind of freedom it offers, unlike cigarettes, which are corporate tobacco--simple, neat and efficient, and you're done."

Pollock welcomes the new wave of younger cigar smokers. Similar to the increased access to higher education in the 1960s and '70s in the United States, cigar smoking allows people the opportunity to refine their tastes and their own sense of style.

Former professor Jivan Tabibian notes the paradox between the increasing popularity of cigar smoking and our no-smoking culture. "McDonald's and America's interest in gourmet cuisine go hand in hand," he says. "Education is not that much different." Tabibian notes that academicians often feel that culture begins and is fostered at colleges and universities, then it moves into the masses and becomes watered down. The debate about political correctness is perhaps the most recent example. He claims that the culture of higher education is more elite than it ever was, but at the same time applications to institutions of higher learning have also increased. This sense of elitism is part of the university culture. We can see the seasoned line worker commenting about the "he-thinks-he-knows-it-all, smart-aleck college boy."

Tabibian taught political science at the University of Southern California, the University of California, Los Angeles and the California Institute of the Arts during the same period. He has since traded the academic life for a consulting practice and entrepreneurial interests in Southern California, including part ownership of Remi, a hot (and cigar friendly) Los Angeles restaurant. Still, the lure of the college setting is as enticing for Tabibian as a fine cigar, and he enjoys studying this same relationship in the masses.

"The relationship of academics and cigars is one of context," he says. "Many of us in academia are not at the top of the economic heap. We've traded dollars for psychic activity. In that environment of the self-made poor, we have subtle signals to reveal our indulgences."

Sometimes it's much simpler than that.

Smoking cigars "is something that I like to do if I'm doing paperwork, reading or writing. I don't get metaphysical about it," says Theodore Hesburgh, a priest and former president of the University of Notre Dame, who is known by many as the "elder statesman" of American higher education.

Hesburgh joined the faculty at Notre Dame in 1945. Seven years later, at the age of 35, he was named president. During his 35-year tenure from 1952 to 1987, the number of students, faculty and degrees awarded doubled, Notre Dame's endowment climbed from $10 million to $400 million, the number of library volumes increased fivefold and the total of buildings on campus went from 48 to 88. During all of this academic progress, the school's football program produced four national champions, outstanding coaches and some of the finest players the sport has ever seen.

Hesburgh now enjoys an occasional Macanudo--when someone gives him one, because he thinks they're too expensive to be a personal indulgence. A native of Syracuse, New York, Notre Dame's president emeritus was a cigarette smoker for many years. However, he gave them up for health reasons, and also because he didn't think that smoking cigarettes was setting a good example for his students. He toiled with pipes briefly, but found them to be too much trouble, so he settled on cigars. However, just to prove to himself that he's not addicted and because of his religious commitment, he gives up cigars every year during Lent.

"Life is full of checks and balances," Hesburgh says, "and it's important not to go overboard on anything--except God, if you will. It's like asking someone why they like caramel custard. I suppose it's because he likes it. I don't want life to be defined by a cigar."

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