1. I have been a big fan of music for as long as I can remember, seeing thousands of bands play. In college, my friends and I would find out about a show, print off the Yahoo! Maps to the city (we didn’t have GPS yet), and ask the locals for directions to the venue. Since I followed a lot of independent punk and metal bands, you never quite knew where the venue might be. Some of my earliest memories are of listening to bands like The Beach Boys (my all-time favorite band) and Genesis, driving through my hometown in my dad’s 1988 Ford Ranger. My wife and I are such big music fans that we named our three kids after artists or songs.
2. Since I grew up such a big fan of listening to music, I also learned how to play guitar when I was around 15 years old. My first guitar (which I still have) I bought with the proceeds from selling a bicycle and taking advantage of my buddy who sold me the guitar to pay off a speeding ticket. I continue to play music and have recorded several records and toured throughout the east, south, and the midwest. I most recently played bass guitar in the band Old Faith (formerly Bombardier) and put out two records on the label Refresh Records.
3. I was raised in Eastern Kentucky near the border of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. I am a proud Appalachian. There are many famous musicians who grew up within an hour or so from my hometown, including The Judds, Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Sturgill Simpson, Dwight Yoakam, and Billy Ray Cyrus. In fact, I graduated from the same high school as Billy Ray and was at the recording of his video for “Achy Breaky Heart.” You can even spot me, ever so briefly, in the opening scene. Despite the many country musicians from my area of the world, I listen to very little country music compared to other styles.
4. Outside of my love of music, my most important passion is my family. I met my wife, Sarah, when we worked in a record store together in college. She is a talented special education teacher at Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland. We have lived together in four different states and have three children—Dylan, Elliott, and Charlotte—all of whom were born while I was in graduate school.
5. Another of my passions is sports. I am a diehard fan of three professional teams: Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds, and Washington Capitals. I have been coaching my son, Elliott, in baseball since he began tee ball. Last summer, before we moved to New York, our baseball team went to the 9U Virginia State Tournament.
6. I come from a long line of railroad workers. On the Iddings side of my family, my dad, Papaw, and great grandfather, my aunt, and uncle all worked for CSX at some point. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. While I knew I wanted to go to college as a young person, I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I dropped out of the first college where I enrolled before I attended my first class! Thankfully, we had a great local community college, so I eventually completed a couple of years of community college and transferred to the original school in which I enrolled.
7. Speaking of family, I had a very fortunate upbringing. My mom, Paula, had me when she was still in high school. She had many family and friends who helped take care of me so that she could continue to finish her studies and graduate. I am super proud of my mom for finishing her school, despite how difficult that must have been. She eventually fell in love with my dad, Steve, who adopted me as a young boy. I hit the jackpot with my family.
8. I enjoy researching how people learn to read and write and how best to teach them to do so. Whenever I get the chance, I like to pick research projects that serve my local community. Additionally, I research and write about Appalachia, I have been fortunate to publish and present my research all over the United States and in several other countries, including South Korea, Germany, Canada, Portugal, Australia, and Germany.
9. Prior to coming to Siena, I was an assistant professor at another small, liberal arts school in Virginia, called Virginia Military Institute. Not only did I have to learn how to salute my students—I don’t have a military background—I had to wear an Army-like uniform while at work. Needless to say, the Siena experience has been a bit different since I arrived last fall.
10. Although I graduated with a B.A. in English as an undergraduate, I began as a biology major and continue to have interests in all sorts of disciplines. I often say that one of the most difficult things about being a professor is seeing all the amazing classes that my colleagues offer that I don’t get to take. I enjoy browsing the shelves of the university bookstore to see what other professors are teaching on campus. In fact, when I was a student, I would buy the books for classes that I wasn’t even taking! I often get anxious about the fact that I likely won’t get to read all of the books that I own before I die, but I still keep buying them. I simply love to learn new things.