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Closing the book on a career

Longtime HCC professor turning attention to manuscripts

Longtime HCC professor turning attention to manuscripts

January 29, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Unlike many who retire after a long career, Ron Ballard says he knows exactly how he will spend much of his time now that he has capped a 36-year teaching career at Hagerstown Community College.

"I have a lot of manuscripts I've been working on," Ballard said. Since 1991, he has been writing fiction. And some of his poetry has been published in Hagerstown and in a journal in New York.

One novel, "Sonata," is nearly finished, he said.

"It's the story of two pianists, one alive and the other, her dead grandmother," Ballard said.

The grandmother's spirit directs the young pianist to the attic, where journals written by the grandmother - who died the year before her granddaughter was born - are hidden, Ballard explained.

Most of Ballard's other manuscripts need polishing, and when he was teaching, there was no time for that.

Ballard's journey to Hagerstown began in his native Seattle, with a number of stops in between.

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Ballard, 68, joined the U.S. Army when he was 19. After he completed his tour of duty, he returned to Seattle before heading south to San Francisco.

He was a restaurant manager for three years before launching a college course of study in California.

"I studied for six years and earned my master's degree," Ballard said.

He moved to Pennsylvania and applied for teaching jobs all over the East Coast. "I got an offer from then-Hagerstown Junior College, so I came here," he said.

Beginning in 1970, Ballard was teaching English and world literature. "We were all teaching in one classroom building then," he said.

Ballard was continuing his education, first at Johns Hopkins University in the history of ideas, then at the University of Maryland, where he earned his doctorate in the philosophy of education.

Ballard's philosophy classes became quite popular over the years.

"I'd often have 30 students in one class and 25 in another," he said.

The bones of his philosophy course included the works of the great philosophers, like Plato's Republic. The curriculum included a kind of history of ancient and modern philosophers, and delved into their writings.

"Part of each course was also analyzing and then argument," Ballard said.

In all those years, Ballard said he used the same textbook - the one he studied from in college, just a different printing.

"I feel really proud of that course," Ballard said, noting that he taught it for more than 20 years.

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