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Toasted, Roasted and Thanked; Former Students Rally for Retiring Professor

April 5, 2011

Category: Academics, Events, Faculty, Politics


Former and current students, representing almost each of the 40 class years that Dr. Sanford R. Silverburg has taught at Catawba College, turned out Saturday, April 2 for a dinner to honor the professor of political science on the advent of his retirement. Silverburg, who joined Catawba faculty in 1970, will retire from the institution at the end of this academic year. ;

The event was held at the Salisbury Country Club and was planned by a host committee made up of Silverburg's former students who have distinguished themselves professionally. Members of the host committee included Dan Bross '71, senior director corporate citizenship at Microsoft in Seattle; Pat McCrory '78, former seven-term Republican mayor of the City of Charlotte and 2008 N.C. Republican gubernatorial candidate; John Arrowood '79, a judge for N.C.'s Court of Appeals; William Graham '83, a Salisbury attorney; Kevin Leonard '95, director of government relations for the N.C. Association of County Commissioners; and Brandy Cook '98, district attorney for Rowan County. Dr. Michael Bitzer, Silverburg's colleague in Catawba's Department of History and Politics, help coordinate the event.

Silverburg learned at the dinner that the host committee had taken preliminary steps in establishing the Sanford R. Silverburg First Family Scholarship at Catawba. The minimum amount for establishing a First Family Scholarship is $150,000, and committee members announced that $50,000 had been raised to date to fund that scholarship that will be designated for prospective Catawba students who intend to major in politics and pre-law.


"When there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinions in good men is but knowledge in the making." Milton,"Areopagitica" (1644)

"The whole secret of the teacher's force lies in the conviction that men are convertible."
Emerson, "Journals" (1834)


"There's going to be a Silverburg Scholar at Catawba for as long as we live," Bill Graham  noted after the scholarship was announced. "You've made a difference in so many lives and so many of these lives will change other lives," he said.

Accompanied by his wife, Lea, sons David and Danial, his daughter-in-law and former student, Kristen Pasto Silverburg '92, and his granddaughter, Olivia, Silverburg listened quietly, often breaking into a big smile, as his former students, friends and colleagues paid tribute to his long career and his influence on their lives.

"From the bottom of my heart I thank you. I wouldn't be who I am today nor have the family I have today if it weren't for you," said Bill Graham. Graham remembered being told by Silverburg when he entered his class as an undergraduate that "I couldn't read and that I couldn't write. In my particular case, he was right," he quipped.

John Arrowood '79 remembered that as a student from rural North Carolina Silverburg, "intimidated the hell out of me," but established a connection with him that has influenced his life.

Pat McCrory '78 said he met Silverburg as an idealistic 17-year-old freshman from Greensboro with long hair and extremely liberal views. "I really believed that government was the answer to everything," McCrory said of himself at that time. Silverburg, he joked, simply agreed with everything he said and then set about changing his mind.

"When Silverburg walked into the room, we would say, 'Oh, God,' and he would think we were speaking of him," McCrory joked. He went on to share one of his favorite memories of his former college professor. He recalled that Silverburg showed up with some students from Catawba in 1995 on the evening when he was elected to his first term as mayor of Charlotte.

"You showed me leadership, how to debate and you allowed me to debate. You shaped my opinions and thank God, I changed some of those," McCrory concluded.


Kevin Leonard '95 remembered four things from his time at Catawba with Silverburg: 1) being told to spell the word, 'separate,' correctly; 2) being called 'KheVin'; 3) being told not to sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff; 4) and being told to make a difference no matter what you do.

Dan Bross '71 shared two columns of descriptive words he had come up with to describe the characteristic dichotomy of Dr. Sanford Silverburg. Those words included opinionated, compassionate, impatient, thoughtful, irrational, caring, emotional, determined, political, inspirational, challenging, hopeful, bombastic, smart, agitator, insightful, provocateur and principled.

Silverburg's former student, Bob Hammond '78, said, "When I came to Catawba, I knew one thing, that I was a knucklehead. Dr. Silverburg suffers fools pretty well."  Another student, Bob Haynes '78 noted that under Silverburg's tutelage he "learned to speak without being afraid."

Silverburg's friend, Jake Alexander of Salisbury, recalled meeting Silverburg when the two were tapped to do political commentary on local radio station, WSTP, in 1988 when the first George Bush became president. "Even in his passion for his belief, it never got personal," Alexander said of his Democratic friend.

Catawba professor emeritus of Communication Arts, Dr. Karl Hales, spoke of his long friendship with Silverburg. He said that early in his tenure at Catawba, Silverburg, a native of Schenectady, N.Y., often spoke of leaving Catawba and going back up North to a large university, but he never left. Instead, Silverburg remained and bloomed at Catawba and helped his students bloom as well. "He knows how to be a friend," Hales said.



1971 Mr. Daniel T. Bross
1973 Mr. Richard E. Shields, Jr.
1974 Mr. Stephen L. Sechriest
1976 Mr. Stephen C. Bona
1977 Mr. Terry E. Osborne
1978 Mr. Patrick L. McCrory
1978 Mr. James A. Davis
1978 Mr. Robert G. Haynes
1978 Mr. Richard D. Locklear
1979 Mr. John S. Arrowood
1980 Mr. Sean T. Mulholland
1981 Mr. Lowell M. Smith, Jr.
1983 Mr. William M. Graham, Esq.
1984 Mrs. Julie Ramseur Lewis
1984 Mr. Branson A. Pethel
1984 Mrs. J. Lynn Shuping Gullett
1985 Ms. Kymn Davidson-Hamley
1986 Ms. Valencia Ann Abbott
1986 Ms. Elaine Shirey
1990 Ms. Sherry Beck Elvington
1991 Captain James H. Nance III
1992 Mrs. Kristine Pasto Silverburg
1994 Mrs. Heather Zeger Reynosa, Esq.
1995 Mrs. Andrea Bryant Davis
1995 Mr. Kerry M. Hultquist, J.D.
1995 Mr. Kevin G. Leonard
1996 Ms. Charlena Alise Harvell, Esq.
1997 Mrs. Valeree Gordon Adams
1997 Mr. Robert M. Van Geons
1998 Mr. J. Chad Mitchell
1998 Mr. Adam Mason
1998 Ms. Brandy L. Cook
1999 Sergeant Jeffrey J. Kennedy
1999 Mr. Bradley J. Nance
2000 Mr. John A. Basinger
2004 Miss Kristen M. Prather
2005 Ms. Erin E. Phillips
2006 Ms. Ellen Colleen Devine
2006 Mr. Jason Harold Windett
2007 Mr. Jared Franklin Warden
2008 Mr. Ryan Gregory Dayvault
2009 Mr. John Doubleday Pellett III
2009 Ms. Lauren Victoria Klopp
2009 Ms. Megan Elizabeth Spidell
2010 Ms. Jacqueline Renee Allen
2010 Mr. Shane Michael Aldridge
2010 Ms. Katherine Virginia Hill
2010 Mr. Kevin Robert Flebbe


Robert Van Geons '97, executive director of the Rowan-Salisbury Economic Development Commission, said Silverburg "wanted you to be a lifelong learner," while attorney Andrea Davis '95 recalled sitting in the front row of Silverburg's class because he was "the smartest person I had ever met in my entire life."

Alumna Kristen Prather '04 remembered that Silverburg motivated her to be all she could possibly be. She recalled a conversation that the two had as she was debating what to do after graduating from Catawba. "He told me, 'There's nothing wrong with living a normal life.'  I told him, 'Yes there is.' And he said to me, 'Then, do better.' "

Silverburg had the last word at his farewell dinner. He joked that the evening "has really been an educational experience for me," and noted his surprise that "the Republican Party was so well represented" among his former students.

"I love the classroom, and that is something I will miss," he said as he scanned the room. "It's not the salaries we receive or the perks, but it has been a pure joy being with each of you."

Silverburg received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Siena College and his Master of Arts degree and Ph.D. in international relations from American University. He has served as chair of the Department of Political Science at Catawba and has been honored as the recipient of the Jefferson-Pilot Professorship at the college and with Catawba's Swank Prize for Outstanding Classroom Teaching. He is the author of numerous bibliographies and articles on Israel and the Middle East, and has served as editor for several publications on the Middle East. His most recent work is an edited volume on "International Law: Contemporary Issues and Future Developments."


PhotosPHOTOS: Silverburg Toasted, Roasted and Thanked

NewsSilverburg Spent Career Making Sure His Students 'Know Who, What They Are' (

NewsHistory & Politics


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