A Different Classics Meme

Meant to mention this one last week … University of Nebraska-Lincoln Classics prof Thomas Winters has entered the realm of memedom with his skateboarding talents … here’s a recent report from the Daily Nebraskan:

Tom Winter has kept his head right where it belongs, despite newfound Internet glory: in the clouds.

While a photo of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor skateboarding continued to circulate on the website Reddit, Winter was partaking in another one of his favorite hobbies, flying over Nebraska in his 1967 Cessna 150 personal airplane.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln classics and religion professor garnered Internet fame last week when Marisol Saldana, a junior international business major, snapped a photo of Winter skateboarding to class and uploaded it to Facebook.

“I was walking from Burnett Hall, and I had my phone in my hand and just took the photo,” Saldaña said. “It’s not everyday you see a 68-year-old man in his work clothes on a skateboard, and that’s why I took the picture.”

Kevin Luparello, a junior political science major, saw it on Facebook and uploaded it to Reddit, a social news and link-aggregate website on April 4.

By April 5, it became the top item on the site, spawning its own meme and hundreds of image macros.

“I’m pretty proud of it, it’s just this feeling of overwhelming happiness,” said Luparello. “It’s another reason for UNL to be this big amazing school. Look, we have a 68-year-old who skates. I wanted to show how cool he was to everyone on the Internet.”

Winter isn’t sure what all the fuss is about.

“There’s something about seeing a person of my years skateboard; that makes people happy,” Winter said. “I couldn’t tell you number of times I’ve gotten the feedback, ‘It makes my day.’ I can roll, but I can’t hide.”

James Brown, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, saw Winter in Andrews Hall and asked if he was aware he was famous. Winter just laughed.

“I freaked out when I saw (the photo) was from Nebraska,” Brown said. “I’m mad someone beat me to it.”

Sidnie White Crawford, a classics and religious studies professor who has known Winter for 15 years, said she and others who know Winter have found the entire thing entertaining.

“It’s great publicity for the university — we’re trying to increase our enrollment,” said Crawford.

As long as Crawford has known Winter, she said he’s always been on the move.

“He’s always riding his bike or skateboard,” Crawford said. “Some of it is for ecology reasons, but he always gets around under his own power.”

Winter doesn’t know who the photographer is, but has no hard feelings about his Internet fame. He finds it quite amusing.

“It’s a great picture. I’d be proud to take that picture,” Winter said. “The big risk with the skateboard is having to have one knee bend and have the other one scooting and the transition from the propulsion to the ride. The photographer caught that deep moment of transition. My hat is off to the nameless photographer.”

Saldana has never taken a class from Winter and didn’t even know what he taught at UNL.

“I wouldn’t mind talking to him,” Saldana said. “I thought about stopping by his office, but what would I say?”

Winter drives to work and parks off-campus, then skateboards to class. He used to ride his bicycle to work but realized a skateboard would be more convenient and, more importantly, more fun.

“I started realizing I was having fun,” Winter said. “I started wishing I had parked further away so I could have more fun. At that point I treated myself to a new board. Arbor Pocket Rocket and it just fits inside a desk drawer.

Slick. My parking place is a steel-cased drawer.”

Winter estimates he’s been skateboarding for 12 to 15 years, and he said he doesn’t believe he’s been out of shape in any of his 68 years. He finds vigorous activities that he loves and loves to do — even though he broke one of his ribs doing a wheelie on his skateboard once.

“In my 20s, it was tennis,” Winter said. “I cured my tennis elbow by quitting tennis. The next was swimming. I lapped up my lunch for years, and then my skin rebelled from all the chlorinated water, so I gave that up. Then I discovered racquetball, then handball at 40. Then the hip joints forced my retirement from all court games. The next fun vigorous exercise was skating.”

In addition to his vigorous physical exercises, Winter has performed in seven plays at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, played violin in the Lincoln Civic Orchestra and he is the founder of Linc-In-Liners In-Line Skating Club, to highlight just a few of his numerous accomplishments.

“Live long enough and you get around to everything,” Winters said. “I didn’t get my pilot’s license til my mid 50s. “

Winter, in his 42nd year at UNL, has no plans to stop skating or to stop teaching anytime soon.

“Well, I think the students and I are still having fun learning,” Winter said.

“I’m still learning new things in my field and making new realizations. If I read Homer for maybe the 60th time, and get nothing new out of it, then I’ll know it’s time to retire.”

If the comments on Reddit are any indication, Winter can except students to flock to his classes in the fall.

“I’ve had many people say ‘I don’t care what class he teaches, I want to take that class,” Saldaña said.

For now, Winter said he will keep rolling with his Internet and campus fame.

“I’m living my life the only way I know how to live my life,” he said. “Gee, it’s not my fault — I could quote Lady Gaga — ‘Born This Way.’”

Here’s the image:

To see what his talents spawned, check out the page at knowyourmeme ….