Meet the Man Taking Classes at NYU for 60 Years
December 6, 2016
While many see education as a stepping stone, Richard Orin has seen it as a lifelong hobby since he enrolled at NYU in 1949. Today, Orin, 89, still takes classes at NYU.
Born and raised in New York, Orin began his academic journey at Cornell University studying engineering in 1943, but soon after enlisted in the army for World War II. After serving, he returned and transferred to Missouri State University, where he received his bachelor’s in business administration in 1949.
Orin moved back to his hometown and became an auditor, but attended classes at NYU Law School at night. Once the Korean War started, he was drafted and served as an engineer in a rebuilt division in Germany.
“We hired the same contractor that worked for Hitler,” Orin said. “It showed that war is absolutely stupid. Everyone you went out to kill, you end up giving them money to rebuild their country.”
Orin returned in 1953 and completed his education at NYU in 1955. But he didn’t stop there. He enrolled in night school again and earned his master’s in law and taxation in 1957. He worked for 53 years as a tax lawyer before retiring in 2010.
“I also raised a chair in the law school in law and accounting when they were just beginning,” Orin said. “I became friendly with John Sexton, who was at that time the law chair. I was one of his first chairs, so that earned me a bear hug. He used to say, ‘You were my first born.’ We created that chair for NYU, and it still exists.”
Outside of academia, Orin was married for 57 years to his childhood sweetheart, with whom he had two children. However, after his wife died of cancer, his life was suddenly shaken.
“When a husband loses his wife in a complex full of single women, he suddenly gets very popular,” Orin said. “I have a girlfriend. On a spur of a moment I said, ‘Let’s have dinner together!’ I said I would meet her in the lobby, but she said, ‘No, it’s a date.’ I asked, ‘What’s a date?’ and she said, ‘Ask your daughter and pick me up at my door.’ So I called my daughter and asked, ‘What’s a date? I haven’t been on one since 1950.’ So I brought her flowers and we went to dinner.”
After retiring six years ago, Orin began taking philosophy courses at the New School, in addition to studying Greek and Latin. In 2012, he discovered NYU’s program for senior citizens.
“I’m what NYU calls an auditor. I’m not required to write papers or take tests, but I do,” Orin said. “They have senior citizens class, but they are all there for fun. They don’t take tests and aren’t serious. If I’m going to take a class, I’m going to be serious.”
NYU history professor Michael Peachin enjoys having Orin in class because he is a dedicated scholar who asks sharp questions.
“I think that inviting seniors to participate in university classes allows the university to serve the broader community — something we should do whenever and wherever we can,” Peachin said.
Orin’s daughter, Rhonda Orin, attended NYU as well, and she loves that the school understands the lifelong necessity of learning.
“It’s the greatest thing, and it keeps my dad young,” Rhonda Orin said. “The funniest thing, he’ll talk to his grandchildren about their college curriculum and talk to them about what he’s taking, and it has tremendously influenced them.”
Rhonda Orin sees her father’s legacy in her own children. When Orin started learning Latin, the kids followed in their grandfather’s footsteps and started a Latin club at school.
“They embraced education as something you own, instead of something that was spooned out to you,” she said. “Whatever made us think that education is something that you go to school and then you stop? Dad never saw it that way, and he’s influenced all of us not to see it that way.”
Email Faith Gates at [email protected]