After 55 long years of teaching and witnessing many changes at SF State, humanities professor Sandra Rudnick Luft will be retiring, but says she will continue to teach.
Professor Luft decided to double major at University of California, Berkeley in philosophy and English literature. She then furthered her education at UCB and started work at SF State in 1962. Luft specifically applied to SF State because there was a interdisciplinary humanities department, which brings together different perspectives from different fields. She was hired to teach in both the humanities and philosophy departments.
When deciding what she wanted to study, Luft considered becoming a journalist. However, she was only sure of one thing: Her passion for reading.
“Since I was a child, I loved reading books and that’s all I wanted to do, read books,” said Luft. “It was mostly literature, but I started to read philosophy and loved philosophy.”
Luft’s favorite philosopher is Giambattista Vico, a famous Italian philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. She even wrote a book called Vico’s Uncanny Humanism, which took nearly 20 years to finish.
“I have been accused of using a great deal of logic and philosophic reasoning to undermine the philosophic tradition,” said Luft.
“I taught in the philosophy department but finally gave that up because I was teaching much more interesting courses in the humanities department. I could invent whatever I wanted, that was the nature of the program,” she said.
The first course she started was called the Introspective Process, a course that focused on autobiographies that illustrated how people try to recover their own memories over time. Although Luft was not interested in teaching autobiography, the nature of the self and how one sees the self intrigued her.
Luft prefers to have an interactive class setting and steers away from lectures. “I think I teach how to read books. So we read through text as much as possible line by line,” Luft said.
SF State student Ahmad M. Ahmad, a third year studying communications who is taking Luft’s class this semester, said she is a great teacher who is very straightforward and patient with her students. He said he learned a lot from taking a course with her.
“I enjoy taking her class … I learned from her to start using my critical thinking, and to describe the word’s and the sentence’s meanings more,” Ahmad said.
Other students, like computer science major and junior Nima Bullock, said that Professor Luft gives them the opportunity to take chances in the classroom, which he feels is a very unique opportunity.
“If I would describe Professor Luft in one word, I would say she is skeptical of everything, in a good way, in the idea that she doesn’t believe in one thing in particular. She is always open to our ideas and new ideas,” Bullock said.
Humanities professor Mary Scott has known Luft for over 27 years. She said they met because Luft was part of the committee that hired Scott. Luft and Scott shared an office space for a few years and said they became “not only colleagues, but friends.”
“She has a wonderful mind and physical energy. She is just buoyant … She speaks beautifully and she is elegant,” Scott said.
Luft is deciding to leave SF State because she has recognized it’s time for her to continue with the next stage of her life. “I want to put things in order for the last stage of my life. I don’t know when that will be. I come from a very long-lived family,” Luft said.
Luft said she will continue to teach anywhere she can, and will make it a point to have reading groups in Berkeley where she lives in order to keep doing what she loves to do.
Luft had a reception Friday, Oct. 20 starting at 5:30 p.m., where she received a Lifetime Achievement Award.