Interview by Christian Feuerstein ’94
Peter Kurland ’81 comes from an Antioch family. “My cousin went there!” he says. “You know, I never saw her when I was there ….” His nephew, Peter Zimbicki ’08, was “the second to last graduate of Antioch!” Kurland was recently nominated for an Oscar for his sound work on True Grit. This marks the third time Kurland was nominated for an Academy Award. His other nods were for the movies No Country for Old Men, and Walk the Line. Here, Kurland talks about the importance of accreditation and how he learned from Maples.
How did you hear of Antioch College? What was your major?
I think my mother suggested it to me. My cousin went there. You know, I never saw her when I was there! I started as a theater major. Backstage theater stuff—the program was limited when I was there. So I was shoved into video classes and so forth. I finally graduated with a degree in business administration. The skills I learned in my business classes: accounting, turned out to be incredibly valuable, and union organizing, were very valuable skills. I’ve been a union president in Tennessee for 15 years.
What’s your favorite memory of Antioch College?
We [he and his wife, Shannon Dee Wood ’81] had known each other the whole time we were in school. We didn’t get into any kind of serious relationship until she was community manager—then we could live together! We owe our relationship to Steve Schwerner. He said there was no way her relationship would survive her being CM, and she’s a very stubborn woman! We’ve been together 32 years!
Peter F. Kurland on campus as a Maples volunteer...
You spent time in Maples, the on-campus firefighting and ambulance service. Care to reminisce a little?
Maples—there’s LOTS of things I remember. Firefighting is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror. Maples really helped me in my career, showed me how not to panic. We were a very effective department. We had a love-hate relationship with Yellow Springs. At the time, we were a competing department. Yellow Springs had a couple of paramedics, and we had a bunch. It was great for me! Crises. How to work as a team. How to be a professional. I’m sort of sorry it’s gone.
Was there a professor who made a huge impact on your life?
Cathy LaPalombara. Without her, I never would have graduated. Bob Devine: never, at any point in his classes, did he or I think I would make a living doing film. Warren Watson: He was a great professor; he was inspired by the math. He was also a paramedic and firefighter. When I went back five years ago, he was then teaching in the film department.
What was your favorite co-op? What did you learn from it?
I had a number of interesting co-ops. I worked at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, in emergency and in detox. It’s a big trauma center for the Northwest. The film industry is similar to co-op—three months, in a new city … a new environment every time. … I have worked very hard to work only with friends and people who I respect. It’s always in a new environment.
What one thing would you bring to the future of Antioch College?
Base level: accreditation! That is where it all could fall apart. It’s a major milestone that we have to reach. … I want it representative of an active co-op program with real world experiences. I’d love to see a fire department again.
Do you donate to Antioch College? Why?
I have and Sharon has—we’re both supportive. There were a few years we were nervous about giving. Now, it’s a lot easier. I’m waiting for this movement of accreditation. When that happens, it will be very exciting to donate then in different quantities.
*This interview was originally published on April 21, 2011. Due to unforeseen circumstances the new Focus scheduled for this month was postponed.