Dr Christopher Bittenbender has been on staff at Eastern since 1998, making him the longest-serving English teacher currently on staff. Bittenbender grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania near the Wilkes-Barre area and was raised on a farm. “I miss it,” said Dr Bittenbender when asked about life on the farm. He now resides in downtown Philadelphia, far from the country, although he finds the urban lifestyle has its perks as well. He loves going to the city’s museums – he notably mentioned the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where his fiancé works – and appreciates the fact that they feature local artists.
Art is obviously a big part of who Bittenbener is, as he appreciates cinema, music and literature. “Art has the ability to tap into the world in creative and innovative ways,” said Bittenbender. His love for literature comes from the professors he had at university. He was originally a history student, and although he still had a great passion for history, his love for literature has overtaken him.
For older people starting their thesis project, Dr Bittenbender also held the same position once. His dissertation was on David Jones, who wrote In parentheses, an epic poem about World War I that plunges readers into the trenches. His graduate program took him to Scotland, where he spent four years. He studied Irish and Scottish literature at the University of St. Andrews, founded in 1413. After returning to the United States, Dr. Bittenbender worked as an assistant professor at Villanova before working at Eastern. The rest is history, and he is now arriving on his 25e year here. He cites the community, the environment and the students as the reasons for his love of the East.
For those who only know Bittenbender as an English teacher, he himself has two kids who are in college and is also an outdoor enthusiast. He enjoys hiking, canoeing and skiing, which comes from his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. Between his undergraduate program and graduate school, he helped his father and brother build a log cabin in the Poconos.
While the start of the year can be stressful, Bittenbender reminded students to take risks. While college is a time when it can be easy to stay satisfied, Bittenbender said students should seize opportunities such as internships, jobs and campus clubs – a teacher’s words of wisdom like Bittenbender who has been in Eastern for almost a quarter of a decade.