Volunteering in Philadelphia: Sean Duffy AB'99, AM'02, PhD'03


What's your U of C story?
I received my AB in 1999, AM in 2002, and PhD in 2003, all in Psychology. I lived in Dodd-Mead house for three years. After graduating I spent time in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Kyoto, Japan, and moved to Philadelphia in 2005. 

Why did you choose Chicago?
In high school, I met a girl who told me I would be a perfect fit for Chicago because I was just weird enough to fit in. I received their "Dreams and Choices" brochure and was hooked. After getting in, I visited with my father, and when I arrived on campus with the sun rising I just knew that this was where I had to go. But I have to thank the College Honors Scholarship I received, which made it affordable for me to attend.

What are your favorite memories of Chicago?
For eight years I played the carillon at Rockefeller Chapel. I had the best view on campus. Many times I would bring people up to the top in the middle of the night for the view. People always wondered who was playing the Muppets theme song in the middle of the night -- that was me. But so many memories -- the scav hunt (I went on the road trip to Atlanta one year), performing piano in Off Off Campus, shaking Bill Clinton's hand at graduation . . . It really was an amazing eight years of my life.

What's your favorite UChicago hangout?

Swimming off the Point during the summer ranks up there. But in regards to places, I still have not found a place like the Medici. Those cinnamon buns and coffee I still have occasional dreams about. 

What was the best book you read for a course?
I had a class with Herman Sinaiko (1929-2011) that was just him and two other students. We read Plato's Republic over two quarters in his office, with the sun streaming in, and it was just a quintessential Chicago experience. You could call it an "ideal form" of a class. Now I disagree with Plato on almost everything and and think Aristotle had it pretty much right, but at the time, it was an amazing experience.

How do you keep involved with the university?

Being involved with the Philadelphia Alumni Club has been a rewarding way of keeping in touch with fellow alumni. But whenever I have a chance to visit Chicago I always head back to Hyde Park and revisit old memories. 

What has surprised you the most about Philly? Any favorite things to do/favorite hangouts?
I grew up in Philly, so when I was offered the chance to be a professor at Rutgers in Camden, I jumped at the opportunity. I am surprised at how Philly has been on an upward trajectory -- you see growth and development in so many places. 

I live near the Italian Market -- that's one of my favorite hangouts, but I also love the Schuylkill River Trail. 

What's been your favorite UChicago Alumni in Philly event?

I recently enjoyed the Pacifica String Quartet, but I've enjoyed all of our events over the past two years. It is always a fine time when you meet up with a group of intelligent people who can share Chicago memories.