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Down in Duplicating, One of a Kind

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Rocky Schwarz

Rocky Schwarz teaching in liberia during his service with the Peace Corps in the early 1970's

Rocky Schwarz, Manager of Document Services, can tell you which countries have blue and white flags. He knows plenty about British royalty, geography and 60s rock trivia-'"all of which has helped make him the crossword champion he is. But his real passion is the volunteer work he does to help educate disadvantaged children in Liberia.

Robert J. ("Rocky") Schwarz came to TC by chance. In his ninth year as an elementary school teacher stationed in Liberia with the Peace Corps, he saw an advertisement on a Peace Corps bulletin board for a master's program in International Educational Development. He figured he would spend a couple years at TC and eventually return to West Africa to continue his work. Two master's degrees (he has another in mathematics education) and part of a doctorate later, he's still here.

But he is still there, too. Schwarz continues to sponsor Liberian students, often bringing them to the U.S. to further their education, and, on occasion, putting them up at his house. He is the founder and guiding spirit of the Cathedral School Education Foundation, which sends computers and other educational supplies overseas, provides teacher training and awards scholarships to up to 40 children annually.

None of this has detracted from the energy Schwarz brings to his job. His office - located in the basement of Zankel Hall - is a high-pressure environment in which "having it done yesterday is usually not fast enough," Schwarz says.

Since his start at TC almost three decades ago, when he was making $3.75 an hour as a work-study student in the same department he runs today, Schwarz has guided the office through continuing expansion and change. Initially it concentrated on transcription services, then moved to word processing functions that teachers now provide themselves. Today, much of Schwarz's work at TC is focused on helping students put together their dissertations.

"Really, the most rewarding part of my job is what I can do to help people get their work done," Schwarz says. "People come in and they're spaced out and stressed, and you need to respect why their work is important to them and why they feel that way."

May - dissertation time - is Schwarz's busiest time of year, and because of this, he has convinced himself year after year that he shouldn't take the time to compete in the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. This year, however, Schwarz decided to go.

"Finally I said, -'How long is my life? I have to do it.'"

Two days and seven puzzles later (some of which the experts can complete in a mere five minutes), he finished 81st out of 500 competitors at the event, which was held in Stamford, Connecticut, and was awarded recognition as the fastest rookie over the age of 60.

"It was fun and nerve-wracking at the same time," he says.

During his tenure at TC, Schwarz has left a positive impression not just through his work, but through his genial attitude and willingness to assist his colleagues. It's not unusual to see him pulling all-nighters when things get swamped in Document Services, according to his co-worker Maudeline Swaray, who works as an information processor in TC's Office of Development. Swaray, a Liberian herself, first came across Schwarz through his charity work and later reunited with him at the university.

"Rocky is a gem; he's really rare, when it comes to looking at things from the standpoint of diversity and humanity," Swaray says.

TC recognized Schwartz for these qualities in October with its Elaine Brantley Memorial Award for Community and Civility.

Yet, even in the rare moment when Schwarz that he was a deserving recipient, he modestly shifts the credit elsewhere.

"Once upon a time a woman worked for me who used to say things to me like, - 'Your Momma brought you up right,'" he said.

Few who have met him would argue otherwise.

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