Faculty/Staff Spotlight St. John's College Santa Fe

Tutor Spotlight: Mr. Appelbaum

By Cameron Hines

Mr. Appelbaum is going on six total years at St. John’s—four years as an undergraduate student in Annapolis and two, eight years later, as a tutor in Santa Fe. And hate to break it to you, Maryland, but New Mexico wins Appelbaum’s vote for its “landscape and food.” You can catch him any day of the week eating the tacos at the El Parasol drive-through. (He wasn’t paid to say that, but if anyone at El Parasol wants to strike an advertising deal, he wouldn’t be averse to it.) 

He meets up with me in the coffee shop after walking and talking with students from his junior French class from Santa Fe Hall to Peterson. First, I have to know– is his dog really named after Buffy the Vampire Slayer? No, he says. The name Buffy came to him in a vision: “I see a border collie wearing a red bandanna in the back of a pickup. What’s that’s dog’s name? It’s Buffy.” His real dog is timid and nothing like the spirit-of-the-Southwest dog in his vision, but the name stuck.

Mr. Appelbaum first heard about St. John’s from his high school teacher in Baltimore. After graduating from Annapolis in 2009, he went to Tulane for his PhD in philosophy. He wrote his dissertation on “Divine Law in Plato and Maimonides.”

Teaching junior language, freshman math, and freshman seminar this year, Mr. Appelbaum is glad that as a tutor he gets to “do something new every year.” He says, “it’s good not to be narrow,” especially after having focused on such a specific area of study for so long in graduate school. He looks forward to being a tutor for junior and senior lab and math.

He envies the students who are reading the Program for the first time– scratch that. He envies the students who are rereading the Program for the first time. “Reading the Great Books is great,” he says, “Rereading them for the first time is even better. The first time you read them is a blur, and the second time you realize there’s so much there.”

Mr. Appelbaum’s favorite thing about St. John’s is the conversation outside of class, “the people arguing the hallway about Hobbes.” The program “isn’t something people feel like they need a break from,” or if they do, it’s “not because you’re sick of it, but because it takes so much energy to think about it.”

When he is taking a break from reading program books, he’s reading books about the American Southwest: No Country for Old Men, and Death Comes for the Archbishop.

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