Former US Principal Returns to TAS for Year Two of Humanities Fellowship

The school welcomed back former Upper School principal, Dr. Richard Hartzell for the Richard K.F. Soong Lecturer in Humanities - although, debatably, he never really left, as this is the second year of the endowed fellowship, which began immediately following his retirement.

In January 2021, Dr. Hartzell worked with students in AP English Literature classes as well as AP French and AP History of Art classes. "When I'm in class, I feel as if I never left," said Hartzell.

Dr. Hartzell returned to his old stomping grounds - classroom 4H07 to be exact, the classroom which has since been named for him by a parent donor - to teach this year's group of literary-minded juniors and seniors Mikhail Bulgakov's satirical work, The Master and Margarita.

Dr. Hartzell had previously taught many other classes at TAS and other independent schools around the world including English composition, art history, AP and IB French language and literature, comparative literature - and, perhaps his favorite of all - floor hockey. "I was dead all last year," said Hartzell. "I played one or two hours of floor hockey a day last year in January." 

Although he expressed some consternation that this year's PE teachers were unable to have him guest teach his favorite sport as it would be quite difficult to play field hockey due to the COVID-19 mask restrictions on campus, he assured me that he was spending enough time in the Tiger Health and Wellness Center with faculty and students to make up for it.

Dr. Hartzell hasn't yet had much time to miss Taipei American School, as our community has welcomed him back twice now since his formal departure; however, Dr. Hartzell says that he has found himself missing many of the people on our campus. 

"The way I look at it, there is this river of students. They are always different, and they go by rather quickly, but I know that they are all wonderful students, and so I still miss them," said Hartzell. "Then, of course, there are so many adults here that I've known for 12 years now. It's always good to see them, too."

Dr. Hartzell thinks that when he stops coming back to campus so often he will begin to miss TAS more, but he isn't sure that it will change much of his relationship with the school. "When you get old, time passes very quickly, so the fact that I've been away for 10 months doesn't really seem that long anymore."

One thing is clear to Hartzell, though: he does not miss being a principal "at all," he jokes. "I feel very comfortable going back and just teaching," he said. 

Hartzell decided to become a teacher when he had an "epiphany" in college. "I went to college as an engineering major, and my first year, I had to take three engineering classes in the first semester," he said. "I had to take a class that would fit in my mornings around my engineering classes, so I took a class called Marxist criticism in French literature, which was supposed to be conducted in English."

According to Hartzell, this was technically true; the readings were in French and the discussions were held mostly in English - or, as he put it "Fr-English. He ended up focusing all of his time and energy on the course, at the expense of his engineering studies. "I immediately fell in love with the first book. I thought I hated English in high school, but this was amazing," he said. "I asked myself, 'Why are they teaching books like this here in this way?' I decided, almost immediately, that I wasn't going to be an engineer. I was going to be a teacher."

"So that's how I got started," he said. Dr. Hartzell has taught across the United States in several states, and moved from there to Switzerland and Colombia, before returning to the United States - and, eventually, to Taiwan. "The only place I spent almost as long as TAS was Saint Mark's School in Texas. TAS beat it out by one year."