When Joseph Zoric, associate professor of economics, first came to teach at Franciscan University of Steubenville 50 years ago, the building that is now called the St. Joseph Center was a roller skate rink.
“Listen to that, there’s a wooden floor under the carpet here,” Zoric said, bouncing a golf ball against the floor next to his desk to demonstrate the sound. “I used to come roller skating here in my younger days, and bring my son.”
Quite a lot has changed for Zoric and for Franciscan’s economics program since that August in 1971 when he first started teaching. The university was a great deal smaller at the time, and not particularly renowned as a Catholic college.
“The president at that time was Kevin Keelan, he was an Irishman,” Zoric remembered. “And he could never remember my name. Whenever we passed each other in the hall he would say, ‘Hello there, young man.’”
Despite the university’s various ups and downs in enrollment during those years, the business and economics programs never experienced a sizeable drop.
“We were really holding the school together back then,” said Zoric.
It was never originally Zoric’s intention to teach economics at a university. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in economics, he began to look for a job at one of the banks in the area. It was only after he heard of an opening at Franciscan University that he even considered going into teaching.
As he soon realized, knowing economics can be an entirely different challenge than teaching economics to others. On his first day of class, Zoric scribbled a handful of notes on a legal pad and walked in to give his lecture.
Twenty minutes into his allotted lecture time, Zoric had exhausted all of his notes that he had prepared for the entire day. With nothing more to say, he looked around the room for a minute and dismissed class early.
“I’m a much better teacher now,” Zoric said with a laugh.
It makes sense; for example, he said he has probably taught his money and banking course 60 to 70 times over the past five decades, and practice makes perfect. Much of the content in the economics classes remains the same over time, which makes it easy to fall back on teaching schedules and content from previous years. However, some courses require constant revision.
“Economics is a social science,” Zoric said, “and it is evolving like everything else.” He described how he makes an effort to keep on top of current trends in economic theory and to regularly update the textbooks used.
“In some ways it’s harder to teach now than it was,” Zoric said. “The economy is complicated.”
Three of Zoric’s former students are now his fellow professors at Franciscan University. Michael Welker, professor of economics; Thomas Kelly, chair of the business department; and Alyssa Kerker, instructor of accounting, all took classes at Franciscan University from Zoric during their studies and now have offices of their own down the hall from his.
Zoric plans to retire from his full-time teaching career in August 2021, which will mark the 50-year anniversary of his teaching career.
“I’m not going to quit cold turkey,” Zoric promised. He plans to continue teaching a few courses at Franciscan University “for as long as I want, or as long as they will have me.”
In anticipation of turning over his office to his successor, Zoric has already cleared out most of his belongings, especially the books that used to line his wall. After retirement he looks forward to having more free time to spend with his two grandchildren and to brush up on his golfing.