Icons (Part 1 of my First Experiences with Dr. Howard Berger)

It’s fall break here at The College. I’ve spent most of this week lounging at my house, watching a lot of movies and catching up on reading. So seeing that this week has a bit of downtime to it regarding college activities, I thought I’d share a bit of one of my past experiences at The College.

There are a lot of reasons why I came to The College of Idaho. Naturally, now that I’ve been here for a few years, I have even more reasons why I couldn’t bear to leave.

This semester I’m taking my first class with the professor that you might call the closest thing we have to a celebrity here on our campus. For almost anyone who knows someone who has attended The College of Idaho, they can tell you about Dr. Howard Berger.

Berger teaches history at The College, and is known for his emphatic, expressive, and borderline theatric lectures. In some ways Berger’s lectures depart slightly from a normal lecture at the school, in the sense that his classes are packed with students. A normal classroom at C of I still runs with a happy and intimate ratio between professor and students; Berger’s classes tend to fill our biggest classrooms. Questions are less likely to happen in a lecture, and discussions are rare; no one dares to disturb the rhythm for too long.


Outside of the classroom, Berger can be seen on the campus at his bench.

I’m not exactly sure how it came about, but the school at some point took it upon themselves to enshrine his relationship with the students by making a permanent location for him to sit. Berger uses this time to speak with anybodywho walks up to him. Students from every branch of the College can be seen at all times during the afternoon chatting with this diminutive legend of the school.

As part of my history minor, I’m taking HIS-200, Intro to U.S. Until this point, my primary interest has been Asian history, but it’s a nice return to form, coming back to national history for the first time since high school.

However, my story as a student with Berger began before I ever stepped into one of his classrooms. Freshman year, I was taking a Tuesday/Thursday 8:00 a.m. anthropology class. It was this semester that I discovered that this branch of the social sciences would not be for me. I was still in a semi-REM state as I held my plate of cafeteria scrambled eggs and hashbrowns, when a man who I had only heard rumors about appeared before me.

Berger walked up to me and said plainly: “When are you going to get a haircut?”

Me: “What?”

Berger: “I said when are you going to get a haircut? You look like some kind of hippie. You missed the boat 40 years ago.”

Me: (still tired and confused) “What?”

Berger: “The next time I’m getting a haircut, you’re going to come with me and then we’ll get lunch. Deal?”

Me: (holding my scrambled eggs, even more confused) “Uhh…”

Berger: “I want your word. How about next Tuesday?”

At this point, my brain was still clogged by South American Incan village hierarchies, a general morning haze, and a desire not to be rude and resume my morning.

Me: “Alright.”

Berger: “Tuesday then.”

He, having finished his breakfast prior to talking to me, left Simplot. I sat down at a table, in the mostly deserted morning cafeteria and ate my eggs, wondering what I had agreed to…

PHOTOS: Top - Berger's Bench. Middle - Berger performing live in Strahorn 106. Bottom - My goofy face on my freshman ID card. "Hippy locks" and all.

-Andrew Moore