Professor Raymond Healey

If you walk into one of Professor Raymond Healey’s literature classes and  discover that he is wielding a sword and donning a warrior’s helmet, do not be alarmed; he is simply preparing to defend the classics. He uses these props to maintain his students’ interest while keeping the lessons from these tales relevant today.

Healey’s English 111 (Literature and Composition) class develops critical thinking skills through the close reading of the literary elements of plot, character, setting, point of view, symbolism, and irony.

And while some people think the writings of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dante, and Milton are anachronisms, he believes just the opposite is true.

“I firmly believe that reading the great books is a foundational experience that every student should have.  In fact, I believe American high school students should spend most of their time reading the classics.  I hasten to add that when I say ‘the classics,’ I'm not just referring to the Greek and Roman classics, but also to more modern works that have been influenced and inspired by them. My list includes such works as Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Allen Ginsberg's Howl, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Auditing one of Healey’s classes is both educational and entertaining as he reads and performs excerpts from such works as Macbeth and The Iliad.

Bryan Ortega, a 19-year-old Hostos civil engineering student, said Healey’s class has helped him to develop a greater appreciation of all literature.

“We get a better understanding of literature, and our knowledge is not simply based on modern literature. Once I started reading and learning about the classics, I just wanted to know more. The classics are really interesting to me now,” Ortega said.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Ortega came to New York City to study in 2010. Now in his second semester of the Civil Engineering Program at Hostos, he expects to graduate in the Spring of 2015 and then transfer to City College. His professional goal is to specialize in structure design.

Professor Raymond Healey holding books The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Ortega says that studying the classics helps him to develop critical thinking skills that are important for engineering students.

Now in his fourth year at Hostos, Professor Healey grew up in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, and attended Philips Academy (Andover), a prep school where he was first exposed to the classics.  He continued his studies of the classics at Harvard, and then at Columbia University, where here earned a Ph.D. in English literature in 1979.

At the age of seven, Healey appeared on stage in The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod and continued performing through high school, college, and graduate school. His fondness for the theatre led him to incorporate the dramatics in his classroom, even if it is only involves donning a helmet and brandishing a sword. 

For example, when he teaches Macbeth, he can draw from his experience in playing the fierce Scottish warrior in a stage reading. He also encourages his students to participate in dramatic readings of scenes from the play as often as possible.

Healy’s communication skills and love for the classics have served him well in a society where Homer is more likely to be associated with The Simpsons than with The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Outside the classroom, Healey has joined the broader argument in defense of the Humanities by writing a 35-page article that he expects to publish this fall. It is entitled “Wht U Shd Rd (or Kno Abt) in Hi Skool: the World Class-icsz; A Preface to an Anthology of Excerpts from Great Books.”

About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College is an educational agent for change that has been transforming and improving the quality of life in the South Bronx and neighboring communities since 1968. It serves as a gateway to intellectual growth and socioeconomic mobility, as well as a point of departure for lifelong learning, success in professional careers, and transfer to advanced higher education programs. The College’s unique "Student Success Coaching Unit" provides students with individualized guidance and exemplifies its emphasis on student support services.

Hostos offers 29 associate degree programs and five certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to CUNY's four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions. The College has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development that offers professional development courses and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. Hostos is part of The City University of New York (CUNY), the nation's leading urban public university, which serves more than 480,000 students at 24 colleges.