Psychology professor John Ostwald will retire at the end of this semester after working at Hudson Valley for more than 25 years.
“To use a very overused expression: it was time,” he said. After his retirement, Ostwald hopes to work as a consultant and lead workshops.
The walls of the office he sometimes shares with adjuncts are covered with dozens of photographs, posters and religious items. Some of the photos on his walls are of family members, while others are of Lady Gaga, Christopher Walken and Gandhi.
At the age of 17, he dropped out of Hudson Valley only seven months after starting because he lacked focus and felt unstable. After his brief stay at Hudson Valley, he served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, but only ever traveled as far as Guantanamo Bay. According to Ostwald, being in the military gave him time to mature and become more focused.
Ostwald became strongly opposed to the concept of war. “I’m angry because of the sometimes apathetic attitude towards sending other people to war,” he said. “Wars are just like factories churning out dead Americans and people all over the world.” Upon returning to the United States he hid his veteran status and pursued careers in psychology and counseling.
A graduate of LaSalle and native of Troy, he worked at Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island and Nassau Community College for 12 years. He moved back to the Capital Region to be closer to home. “I’m a ‘Troy boy.’ I’ve lived in a lot of different places and I think it’s magnificent up here,” he said.
He worked for a short time for the Department of Correctional Services before taking a job as an adjunct professor at Hudson Valley. Ostwald works for an organization called “It could happen to you” which advocates for the falsely accused and seeks to reform the current judicial system. He also mentors a recently released convict who served 23 years for rape and kidnapping.
Ostwald wrote his first column for the Troy Record 12 years ago and has been writing columns bi-weekly since. Some of his past columns have focused on Veterans issues, sexuality, drugs and gambling.
This December, a compilation of Ostwald’s columns on veteran’s issues is set to be published containing about 25 columns. “My ultimate goal is to be a good writer,” he said.
Ostwald has taken on several approaches to keep his students interested in his class over the years. At one point, he wore an eyepatch and pretended to be injured to study the pathology of his students. As a psychologist, he frequently tries to give provocative and controversial lectures like “Pedophilia: a compassionate view” which he plans to give before retirement.
He traveled on a mission trip to Africa with a local presbyterian church almost a decade ago. Ostwald returned to his Catholic roots after researching many religions including Buddhism, Judaism and a few sects of Christianity.
Although he feels powerless to change large societal trends, Ostwald uses his position as a professor to do what he can. Ostwald noted, “I just try, in my everyday life, to be a good person, a good role model and a good educator. I hope that in some small way that I make some small impact on the way people relate to each other.”