Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

Racing Odysseus

A College President Becomes a Freshman Again

Roger H. Martin (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 280 pages
ISBN: 9780520265875
January 2010
$23.95, £18.99
The idea of reliving youth is a common fantasy, but who among us is actually courageous enough to try it? After surviving a deadly cancer against tremendous odds, college president Roger H. Martin did just that—he enrolled at St. John's College, the Great Books school in Annapolis, Maryland, as a sixty-one-year-old freshman. This engaging, often humorous memoir of his semester at St. John's tells of his journey of discovery as he falls in love again with Plato, Socrates, and Homer, improbably joins the college crew team, and negotiates friendships across generational divides. Along the way, Martin ponders one of the most pressing questions facing education today: do the liberal arts still have a role to play in a society that seems to value professional, vocational, and career training above all else? Elegantly weaving together the themes of the great works he reads with events that transpire on the water, in the coffee shop, and in the classroom, Martin finds that a liberal arts education may be more vital today than ever before. This is the moving story of a man who faces his fears, fully embraces his second chance, and in turn rediscovers the gifts of life and learning.

1. Orientation (Four Years Later)
2. Hubris
3. Homesickness
4. Dysfunctional Families
5. Navy
6. Old Farts
7. Community
8. Victory

Roger H. Martin is Professor of History Emeritus and past president at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia.
“An extraordinary memoir . . . A welcome reminder of what real Western education, as opposed to mere vocational training, is about: the constant exercise of the mind in discovering, appreciating and debating major thinkers and artists, past and present; the exploration of key moral, aesthetic and political issues; above all, gaining a historical perspective on our (very real) European roots, perhaps the most effective antidote to the current all too pervasive malaise of presentism.”—Peter Green Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
“Alternately amusing and poignant, Martin’s personal epic offers a much-needed perspective on cultural dilemmas both ancient and modern.”—Bryce Christensen Booklist
“An engaging memoir . . . Highly recommended for general libraries.”—Elizabeth R. Hayford Library Journal
“An understated, engaging memoir.”—Luther Spoehr Providence Journal
“Racing Odysseus is not your typical college president’s memoir. It’s not a collection of speeches or a capstone meditation on years of engagement in institutional leadership. Indeed, it’s just the opposite: a story about the trials and tribulations of suspending his presidential persona and becoming, as the book’s subtitle proclaims, ‘a freshman again.’”—Mary Taylor Huber Change Magazine
“An extraordinary memoir. . . . An enthusiastic, breathless and oddly innocent narrative, [the book] is a welcome reminder of what real Western education . . . is about.”—The Australian
“I think this is a very good book indeed: extremely readable with a very human story to tell (about the author's journey to rediscover himself and education after facing imminent death) and a message to send (about the role of the liberal arts in our lives as well as our education). Martin employs compelling references to and quotations from the classical texts he read in the St. John's freshman seminar: this is not heavy-handed 'you should read Aeschylus if you want to call yourself educated' stuff, but rather the humble confession of a humanist who knows one is never too old, educated, or experienced to learn something new or again. And that is a message that will always be valuable.”—Loren J. Samons II, author of What's Wrong with Democracy: From Athenian Practice to American Worship

"Roger Martin has created a riveting narrative of his confrontation with mortality, and, in that encounter, a testimonial to the enduring value of liberal education."—Douglas W. Foard, Executive Secretary (ret.) of Phi Beta Kappa
Loading the player ...
Play audio
Interview with the author, Roger H. Martin

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more