Whoever you are, hello, and welcome to my life and work! All my other bios are written formally in the third person. Since this is my new personal—and book—website and since I’m nearly 80, I decided to compose this version as a kind of intro letter from me to you. So, before we go any further, thank you for spending a few minutes reading about my life up to now. I’ll try to keep it brief.
I was born in New York City on November 6, 1939, the first son and second child of Jack Newton Feldman, grain merchant, and Estelle Potash Feldman, housewife and mother. I grew up in a secular household in both Manhattan and the nearby suburbs. My first spiritual guide, from age 18 months to age 16, was Florine Tolson Bond, who was what was then called “the Colored maid.” She became my mother of choice, role model, and the reason my Kindergarten teacher sent a note home about my “speech problem”: This blond-haired, blue-eyed Jewish boy was speaking Black English!
When I was 11, my parents sent me to Peddie, in 1951 an American Baptist-affiliated boarding school in Hightstown, New Jersey. After four years and two summers there, I graduated and went on at age 16 to Yale. An undergrad there for three year—I spent my junior year as an exchange student at Heidelberg University, Germany—I graduated near the top of my class in 1960 with a B.A. in English. After a year of work in Chicago, I returned to Yale to get my master’s (1962) and doctorate (1966), also in English. My subsequent teaching and administrative career (1965-1991) took me to Queens College of the City University of New York, the University of Hawaii, the East-West Center (Honolulu), the University of Maryland in Germany, Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago), Metropolitan State University (The Twin Cities), and the Minnesota State University System. During those years I had such titles as professor of English, intercultural activities officer, academic director and dean, academic vice president, and assistant to the state-system chancellor for international programs. From 1992 on, I worked as a higher-education and nonprofit consultant, administrator, and fundraiser. More recently I have been a tutor, language teacher, and editor as well as a high-school English teacher, both in Hawaii and Indonesian Borneo.
On the personal side, in 1963 I married a young German woman, Hannelore (later Simone) Zimmermann, whom I had met during my junior year abroad. We had two daughters, Marianna and Christine, now adults, and were blessed with a happy, harmonious marriage until she died of pancreatic cancer in September 2006. In September 2010 I married Dr. Cedar Barstow of Boulder, Colorado, where we now live. To backtrack, in May 1961, just a year after finishing my bachelor’s, I was initiated into the spiritual practice of Subud (Susila Budhi Dharma), something I have continued to follow until now. I was also baptized into the Christian religion on March 4th, 1967, and have been by turns a Lutheran for 37 years, a Roman Catholic for seven, and an Episcopalian since. Developing an ever-deeper relationship with what the late theologian Marcus Borg called The More has been my major life project.
And now, my pilgrimage to Wisdom. During my university career, I worked as an undergraduate advisor and even won an award doing so. I found that what interested me the most was how the whole person was formed and how character could be strengthened in my students. Then in 1978 I read a book by Jonas Salk, Survival of the Wisest. Little did I know at the time that a few months later I would be representing American higher education at a conference Dr. Salk had put on in Farnam, England, on educating for the future. After asking him to sign my copy of his book, I said, “Jonas, you have convinced me that to survive, humanity has to become wiser. But I’m a college teacher. How can I help my students do that?” The world-famous scientist looked at me earnestly for a full 20 seconds, then said, “Reynold, I think that’s your job to figure out.”
From that moment on, I had my mission. In the late 1980s I began teaching an upper-division university course called “The Literature of Wisdom: A Cross-Cultural Exploration,” which I continued to do for 12 times. In 1992 HarperCollins published a co-authored book with a thousand proverbs from over 130 cultures entitled A World Treasury of Folk Wisdom. My sixth book on practical wisdom, co-authored with Sharon Clark, Wisdom for Living—Learning to Follow Your Inner Guidance—my 10th book in all—will come out from John Hunt Publishing, O Books division, England, on July 26, 2019. You can learn about each of these books elsewhere on this website. Along the way I have also facilitated workshops and given talks on various aspects of practical wisdom. My goal has always been to help all of us, myself included, become wiser and live a better life.
That, dear reader, is my hope for you.
Reynold Ruslan Feldman Boulder, Colorado, USA May 2, 2019