Dr. Dupree discusses Alice in Wonderland with his class. Photo: Anne Weiss

Dr. Don Dupree has been an English teacher at Pace Academy for 22 years now. Because of Doc’s thought-provoking nature and fun classroom environment, much of the student body is interested to learn more about Doc’s life.

Brian: How’s it going Dr. Dupree?

Dr. Dupree: As I keep saying to everyone, I’m plugging along. I’ve had back surgery this summer but I’m plugging along, I’m here.

Brian: Where did you grow up, and what were you like as a child?

Dr. Dupree: A number of students wanted to hear stories about growing up in Rising Fawn, Alabama. That’s not quite the way it was. I grew up part of the time in North Carolina, in a little place called Angier, south of Raleigh. Part of my growing up time was in Montana. It’s hard for us to think about ourselves in the past. I would say to you that I was pretty much what I am now. My parents would say extremely energetic, imaginative, and unlikely to be doing something predictable.

Brian: What were your jobs before teaching and where did you go to school?

Dr. Dupree: I went to college at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN and after a short bit of graduate school at Vanderbilt, I taught my first class at Sewanee in 1977. I’ve been teaching ever since. In many ways, I don’t know anything else other than teaching.

Brian: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Dr. Dupree: Teaching is fun. It’s fun to see individuals react to the things that you have to say. It’s fun to challenge individuals to be imaginative. The classroom is just a fun place to be.

Brian: Who was the most influential person in your life and how did they inspire you?

Dr. Dupree: My father’s mother. She was opinionated, kind. For instance, during the 50’s and 60’s she ran the family farm. My grandfather had no interest in it (he was a lawyer) and she essentially ran it. I got a picture from her of women doing substantial, exciting things.

Brian: What is the happiest time in your adult life so far? Why?

Dr. Dupree: One of the happiest times was getting to know the person who would ultimately become my wife. I certainly look upon that as one of the happiest periods of my life. the birth of our children, the establishment of a family. As I think back on them, I’m excited by the various adventures. My wife and I lived in Brooklyn in Park Slope for a year. I taught at Rutgers and my wife went to NYU to graduate school. That was an experience I would have never have predicted. It was fun because of some of the challenges involved. For instance, one of my favorite places in Brooklyn became the Polish market. I would walk around the corner on 7th avenue and cross the pedestrian bridge over the IRT and go to the Polish market. They were Jewish people who had gotten out of Eastern Europe before Communism took over. You could buy every sort of sausage imaginable, all sorts of things. They had a hot bar with homemade borsch that I adored. 

Brian: Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?

Dr. Dupree: There’s so many authors I enjoy. The knee jerk reaction in my family is to talk about Jane Austen. I love teaching Beowulf. I love Shakespeare. I have enjoyed all of the Salman Rushti novels.

Brian: What is your all time favorite food?

Dr. Dupree: Southern food of all sorts. I enjoy country ham and collard greens and grits, and almost anything that is genuinely old time southern cooking.

Brian: What is your favorite movie?

Dr. Dupree: The French Connection – it developed so much of the genre of Action movies. I enjoy having students read the Matrix script and watch the movie. In our house, we rewatched the Harry Potter movies with regularity. 

Brian: What is your favorite musical artist and why?

Dr. Dupree: I very much enjoy discovering young talent. I have been very, very excited by the crossover genres. Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus worked together on Old Town Road. So when I discover somebody new, I’m excited by that. The only redeeming factor of the current student generation, and I mean that – the only redeeming factor of the current student generation is their eclectic musical taste. 

Brian: If you could hang out with any cartoon character, who would you choose and why? …

Dr. Dupree: Oh my gosh! Very definitely Wonder Woman. Because! – The combination of superpower and imagination.

Brian: Are there any passions or hobbies outside of school that people don’t know about you?

Dr. Dupree: I don’t think people know that I enjoy cooking – my whole family enjoys cooking. It’s the reason covid lockdown was not the world’s worst hardship, because we were all together and cooking. 

Brian: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Dr. Dupree: Don’t take any wooden nickels. That means don’t accept anything on face value and don’t fall mindlessly into the status quo.

Brian: What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Dr. Dupree: I have one foot in the Jewish world and another foot in the Christian world. I love Shabbat. I love the tradition of every Friday evening gathering everybody together, and that bit of hospitality. The thing I love about Christmas is midnight mass on Christmas Eve and then breakfast on Christmas Eve. 

Brian: Thank you for your time Dr. Dupree. 

Dr. Dupree: Okay thank you.

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