Professor Alan A. Kay


Department:
» English


Term:
» Spring 1996


» Biographical Sketches


Professor Alan A. Kay

Professor Alan A. Kay's 1996 Scholar on Campus Lecture, "A Writer's Journey in Search of Spirituality," gave moving witness to his love for both literature and what he called "the miraculous." But his remarks spoke to an even greater love - his deep friendship with and enormous admiration for his closest friend and Department of English colleague, Professor Charles C. Matusik, who was also an ordained Catholic priest and Kay's breakfast companion nearly every day of every week for more than 20 years. Father Matusik died unexpectedly only a few weeks prior to Kay's Scholar on Campus presentation and on the eve of the time he had set aside to write his lecture.

Kay long had been a man with an affinity for letters and spirituality. His search for the miraculous had intensified in 1989, when he undertook a scholarly review of the literature, both ancient and modern, in search of words and ideas that would provide him comfort and reassurance at the time of the final illness and death of another central figure in his life, his father.

Drawing on how the loss of these two individuals had profoundly impacted his own life, Kay's remarks addressed the similar losses that all people experience - losses that often "inflict chaos on order and even crush the soul, losses that require the vigilant support and healing help of others to enable recovery."

Kay went on to discuss the critical role that faith plays in life and encouraged his audience to talk more freely and more often in the secular setting about the spiritual dimension, and to do so without fear of judgment or criticism. He invited all to make room "for one another to believe, to worship, to pray - to search for the miraculous - each in his or her own way." His remarks were dedicated to the memory of Matusik and "the gentle soul that marked the man, the teacher, my buddy."

Kay taught English for more than 30 years at City Tech and, together with Matusik, co-founded the College's Mickey Leland-Ivan Tillem Peace Studies Seminar. For many years, the popular seminar series worked to foster peace and understanding by creating a forum for the sharing of ideas concerning significant life issue and world events.

Following his retirement from City Tech in 1999, Kay completed rabbinical studies and was ordained as a rabbi in spring 2001. He currently serves as rabbi at Temple Beth Emeth of Mount Sinai in Suffolk County, Long Island.

Kay, who received his PhD in English Education from New York University, is author of A Jewish Book of Comfort and was founding editor of Shofar, a magazine for Jewish children. At City Tech, he wrote and/or edited numerous articles for Perspectives, the College's faculty journal of which he was founding editor-in-chief, Brooklyn Bridge to the World, the College's student literary magazine, and Journeys to a New World, collections of student family histories.

In spring 2002, Kay returned to campus to moderate an historic seminar, "Beyond Good and Evil: A Multi-Faith Perspective on September 11." Sponsored by the College's Committee on Pluralism & Diversity, the seminar assembled a panel of distinguished Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Protestant clergy to discuss topics ranging from the use of religious rhetoric to further political ends to the role that the major faiths have to play in moving a culturally diverse world beyond issues that separate to a heightened sense of shared humanity and common fate.

Kay also returns to campus each fall and spring to preside at the City Tech Jewish Faculty & Staff Association-sponsored Chanukah and Passover observances. In 2004, he was back again to discuss his latest book, Make Your Own Passover Seder: A New Approach to Creating a Personal Family Celebration, one filled with warmth and creativity and co-author by his wife, Jo.

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