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The Zinger Is No More

Government Professor Vincent Starzinger — the Zinger — passed away on Wednesday at the age 88. He terrorized several generations of Dartmouth students with a bruising classroom style that is today only recalled by Economics Professor Meir Kohn. And like Kohn, Starzinger’s classes were always full:

vincent starzinger.jpg

The Valley News has a more complete obituary.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

The Valley News obituary is woefully incomplete. Starzinger’s most incredible talent was memorizing the Freshman Book, and then greeting you by name when you passed him on the Green. Not just those in his classes — every freshman!

Addendum: An alumnus refers me to an Alumni Magazine profile of Maine Senator Angus King ‘66, in which King is quoted:

King’s interest in politics was immediate. He recalls, in detail, the lectures of longtime Dartmouth government professor Vincent Starzinger. “I remember him using the movie The African Queen to explain the two different views of natural law,” King says. “Humphrey Bogart wakes up in the boat to see Katharine Hepburn dumping his gin out into the river, and he’s very upset. He says to Hepburn, ‘It’s only natural, ma’am, that a man should want to drink every now and then.’ That’s one view of natural law. Hepburn said, ‘Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are here to rise above.’ That’s the other view of natural law. It has been 50 years and I remember every word of that lecture.”

My correspondent also noted a February 29, 2008 Valley News column by Frank Gado ‘58:

Back in the unglorious days of 1969, [Government Professor Richard] Winters writes, his department had only “one superlative instructor (the legendary ‘Zinger).” But Vincent Starzinger, it is worth noting, wrote just one book during his entire career. His monumental reputation instead derived from his brilliance in challenging students to think, and in employing the broad base of scholarship. He directed his intellectual vitality at a range of heterogeneous students, not just government majors. It is that kind of mind, operating with that kind of passion, that Dartmouth should be seeking and rewarding.

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