by Jessica Evangelista Balduzzi ’05
Campus Safety Sergeant Maurice Harling P’16 isn’t your typical HWS student. Or campus safety officer for that matter. The former semi-pro football player, husband and father of four teenage daughters, including a William Smith first-year, Harling never pictured himself writing a thesis on the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther.
“I didn’t know I had that in me,” says Harling. “I want to get a foothold on some of the education I’ve missed over the course of 30 years.”
While on patrol one afternoon last year, Harling ran into Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter ’86, P’15. Always intrigued by philosophy and theology, the pair struck up a conversation, and before he knew it, Harling was enrolling in a 300-level religious studies course.
“I’ve always thought of things as very black and white,” he says. “But when talking about theology, religious studies and philosophy, there’s no right or wrong answer. I find it fascinating to be immersed in grey.”
The ability for Harling to take classes at HWS while maintaining his role with Campus Safety is due, Harling says, to Director of Campus Safety Marty Corbett. “Marty went to the Deans Office and to Human Resources to work out a way for me to attend class while maintaining my position with the Office of Campus Safety,” says Harling. “The entire HWS community has been incredibly supportive of my endeavor.”
This fall, Harling took a European studies course with Associate Professor of English Laurence Erussard. “Not only am I learning from the text, I am also learning from the students,” he says. “Some of the very brightest HWS students are in my classroom. I am in awe of their ability.”
While Harling tries his best to blend in with the other students, he’s become somewhat a surrogate parent to some. “I am always telling the students; ‘hey be careful this weekend’ or ‘make sure you call your mom!’” he laughs.
Balancing the role of campus sergeant, parent and student comes with its challenges, but the role of student has certainly helped him with his day job. “Paper work has always been a chore, but it is not as daunting of a task now that I write theology papers!”
Harling gets homework help from daughters Sarah, Ashley, Kayli and Emily, too. “Just the other day, Emily taught me how to save my papers to a flash drive.”
This spring, Harling is taking “Torah and Testament,” a religious studies class taught by Salter and Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski, and he’ll audit an aesthetics class with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Carol Oberbrunner. And in the summer he’ll pursue a 450- level philosophy and metaphysics independent study under the advisement of Hobart Dean Eugen Baer HON’07, P’95, P’97.
Since taking classes at HWS, Harling finds it hard to turn off the material. “When studying philosophy and theology, you can’t think about the world the same way. You’re changed.”
Ultimately, Harling’s goal is to one day walk across the steps of Coxe Hall to receive a degree. “One of my grandkids might push me across the steps, but I’ll get there,” he jokes.
“You get out of life what you put into it, says Harling. “If you work hard, it will pay dividends. It might not come in a monetary form; it may come in respect, or the ability to pursue an education.”