Shippensburg Professor Praises Professor Spahija/
During the Christmas holiday, I had the great pleasure of reading your interview with Professor Miftar Spahija of Mansfield State. Prof. Spahija was my friend on the charter faculty of le .Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa Florida, in 1960-61 . He is one of the finest and most inspirational teachers I have ever known, and would like to share with you a few reflections of my own regarding this remarkable man.
First of all, I had never heard the moving story of his escape from the Communist regime in Albania to Greece. Prof. Spahija is a humble man, and he seldom talks of the hardships to which he has been exposed. So I am very pleased that he chose to tell that story to your audience.
Secondly, it seems difficult for me to praise sufficiently the restraint with which Prof. Spahija views his experiences. He could in my opinion, be a bitter, disillusioned, skeptical man. But he is, as I am sure those of you who are privileged to know him are well aware of, a very genial, optimistic, affirmative individual. He profoundly believes in the great ideal that many of us have reduced to the cliche’ “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As my colleague, he quietly inspired me with this ideal. We worked hard to establish, a new school in Tampa, and none worked harder or more cheerfully than Miftar Spahija. When I was discouraged, I turned to him for counsel and strength. He had always a goodly abundance of both.
We both wanted careers in “college teaching, so we left Tampa in search of such careers. As fate would have it, we were quickly rejoined. I had gone on to graduate studies at the University of Virginia, and Miftar had accepted a teaching position at nearby Madison College. Again, I was strengthened through meeting with him, even as he recovered from a serious illness which he incurred at this time. Always I encountered a very steady, contemplative, strong companion in Miftar Spahija.
And now, practically decades later, we are colleagues in the Pennsylvania State College system. Several years ago I visited Miftar in Mansfield and mentioned in passing that I would very much appreciate reading Boccaccio’s long epic poem The Teseida in English translation but, alas, none was available. Within weeks, I received notebooks containing a careful literal, English translation of this heretofore inaccessible poem from my friend Miftar Spahija. Had I expeditiously edited this translation, it surely would have been published as another translation recently has been. But through this experience I came to know my friend as a careful translator and excellent linguist. Professor Spahija shared with you the Byronic allusion to the Albanian symbol of the two-headed eagle proud and indomitable. Certainly the good professor well exemplifies this image. Indeed through his experiences he seems to have given it new meaning: In his life he has brought together the traditions of the Albanian eagle and the American eagle. Prof. Spahija is at one and the same time the proud Albanian and the proud American. Knowing him has been one of the rare privileges of my life. He has taught me much of scholarship, citizenship, and friendship.
Associate Professor in English
Shippensburg State College
Editor’s Note: Last semester Dr. Miftar Spahija, French, contributed a two-part series relating experiences fleeing from the clutches of Communism, for which the Flashlight is ever grateful.