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BU alum releases memoir of life as a bustling adjunct professor in New York City

From an adjunct professor to a theater director, Boston University alum Laurence Schwartz has seen it all and published it in his new self-published book, “Teaching on Borrowed Time: An Adjunct’s Memoir.”

Laurence Schwartz Teaching on Borrowed Time book memoir
Boston University alum Laurence Schwartz’s new memoir “Teaching on Borrowed Time: An Adjunct’s Memoir.” Schwartz self published the memoir, which was released in February. BAILEY SHEN/DFP STAFF

Released last February, Schwartz’s book chronicles his three decades as a part-time lecturer at over twenty different universities. Schwartz, who was once a student at BU’s College of Fine Arts, began his career in the New York theater scene.

“I began my career as an actor. I was lining some roles and I received my equity card very early and received favorable reviews from the New York Times,” Schwartz said. “I stuck with it for a few more years, received occasional roles, but my career was really not going anywhere.”

Eventually, Schwartz found himself teaching public speaking at Long Island University in 1989.

“I sort of fell into teaching,” Schwartz said.

His father, a graduate of Long Island University, helped Schwartz get in touch with the chairman of the speech and theater program, thus beginning his teaching career.

Schwartz has taught on subjects ranging from Charles Manson to opera to the Grateful Dead, proclaiming his favorite to teach was cinema.

With a teaching history at over 20 different institutions on the university circuit, Schwartz recalled the plight of an adjunct professor.

“Many universities where I’ve taught at, it’s not been for long,” Schwartz said. “The adjunct has to depend on classes, registering adequately. Our chairman can assign an adjunct to courses. The courses that don’t fill are canceled.”

These fleeting, tough stints teaching across New York City inspired the name of Schwart’s memoir.

“I’d have to take a bus from Port Authority at 6:30 [a.m.],” Schwartz explained. “So I’d have to be up at 5:30. Then I would go to my class at Bergen. And then from Bergen, I go back to Manhattan, kill a few hours, and I have an evening class from six to nine.”

Schwartz stated how he would arrive to classes exhausted, but would have to muscle through it nonetheless.

“You can’t walk into class and project nervousness and tension, because it can carry on to the students, and I don’t want to start class that way,” Schwartz said.

While teaching, he began to pursue his master’s degree in theater at Hunter College. Upon completion of his degree in 2005, Schwartz continued to teach, but made a return to the stage as well.

“I returned to the theater in 2009 as an actor, but very soon, around 2011, I began directing,” said Schwartz.

He found himself now on a dual career path as a lecturer and New York theater director.

Schwartz received glistening reviews and compliments on his theater directing, which includes taking the reins on plays such as “Leaving Lannahassee and Case Closed: The Dorian Corey Story.” Lewis Peyton, playwright of “The Prophet,” recalls his time working with Schwartz.

“My first impression of Larry was ‘who’s the intellectual?’ ” Peyton said. “I thought that his intelligence would probably be an asset to the type of play that I wrote. And immediately I knew he would be the right director for it because he had an intelligence that sort of permeated the room.”

Peyton added that, as a director, Schwartz is very approachable, passionate about his work and fully open to collaboration.

Currently, Schwartz is directing “The Window Washer,” written by playwright Marlene Shyer. Schwartz previously directed Shyer’s play, “Beethoven’s Hair.”

“I thought he was really dedicated to the profession,” Shyer said. “He was very anxious to get from the actor a good sense of the role.”

Schwartz began writing “Teaching on Borrowed Time: An Adjunct’s Memoir” in 2014.

“By that point, I looked at my record, and I said ‘you know, being an adjunct is a fairly common position.’ Because the last statistic was 65% of undergraduate faculty are adjuncts nationally,” Schwartz said when asked about the inspiration for his memoir.

Schwartz hopes his memoir stands out to the adjunct community and individuals in the university system as a whole.

“It’s all been worth it,” he said. “It’s really been a labor of love, and it’s the result of a long career.”


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