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My World, My Home; Thomas Grant '59


In the 1940s a young Thomas Grant '59 dreamed of visiting the countries he could only see in magazines. He sent away for brochures and waited anxiously for them to arrive so he could bury himself in the different cultures revealed simply by the pictures and words. He promised himself that one day he would see the world for himself.

Today, at 74, Grant and his wife Marie have visited more than 40 countries and are still adding to the list.

As a World Cultures teacher at Perkiomen Valley School District in Collegeville, Pa., travel wasn't just his avocation but his vocation as well.

"When Pennsylvania mandated a course on World Cultures, I got picked to teach it, partially because I think no one else wanted to teach it," he chuckled. For Grant, becoming a teacher was an accident. "I came to thoroughly enjoy teaching and realized that [teaching] was what I was best equipped to do," he says. By studying foreign countries in depth for his students, Grant's desire for travel grew.

"When people ask me ,'Why do I want to go there?' I simply say, 'Because I haven't been there yet.'"

His favorite country to visit to date is Turkey. "I have been there twice and would go back tomorrow," he says. "It has most of what any traveler would want: beautiful landscapes, a fascinating city (Istanbul), a wonderful mix of cultures, religious history, great food, and a vibrant population." He is still hoping to see more of the world, and the Arctic and Portugal are at the top of his list.

Nothing has gotten in the way of his desire to travel, not his age, or even his limp from a bout with polio at 17. "If you read about polio survivors, they're really sort of tough people because they have that extra handicap to work through," he says. "It's wanting to show myself and others that I can do it."

Though he retired from teaching in 1995, Grant still gives lectures. Last spring he spoke about the world's religions – Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism – at Zelienople Area Public Library. Next February, he plans to add Daoism to his list. This interest in world religions was sparked by Albright professor Ellery Haskell, Ph.D. "At first I thought nothing of it until I taught my World Cultures course. I went back to the textbook that he [Haskell] My World, My Home; Thomas Grant '59 used and I really appreciated what he did. Professor Haskell was a Baptist minister," he says, "and he taught the class without any bias or judgment. It must have been a powerful message that I somehow sensed and which influenced me so much in my life as a teacher."

Grant has dedicated his life to mutual understanding, and from his teachings and his travels he has gained more of a world view, he says. "Talking to people in other countries lets you see your country in a different light, but it also allows you to see that there is an underlying commonality among people that illustrates that we have much to share and teach to one another."

On their travels, Tom and Marie Grant like to share a wise saying by Kabir,"When your soul is no stranger to you, the whole world is your home."

– Avery Brown '11

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