Spring 1998
Paths less traveled
Alma Matters
Riff Ram
Purple Heart
Class Notes
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TCU Magazine "Class Notes"

Reflection pool

Philosophy Prof. Gregg Franzwa had to settle for a shallow pool, but his thoughts, as always, run deep.

By Nancy Bartosek

IT DIDN'T LOOK that hard. Dig a hole, line it with tile, add water. Swim. Who could have guessed that an average pool job would result in seven months of work and the manual removal of more than seven tons of rock?

Certainly not philosophy Prof. Gregg Franzwa, and definitely not the unwitting pool man who agreed to a price, stuck to it despite overwhelming problems and then got out of the pool business.

"We dug out about 12 inches of dirt then hit solid rock," said Franzwa, entering his 22nd year at TCU. "The pool was going to be seven feet deep. We settled for five and a half."

With an unexpected lode of fossiliferous limestone on-hand, Franzwa hired students to move the mountain into something resembling art on two sides of the pool.

Nothing new there. The prof hires undergrads for all his building projects, which have been many over the years. It gives him a chance to interact with students informally. And more opportunities to mold expanding minds.

"I want to instill a critical attitude toward institutions and power structures and all of the stuff in the world that sweeps people along without them thinking about it much," he said. "I like to think I contribute to people being able to step back from their immediate circumstances and take a longer look at things. A lot of people get sucked into a lot of things simply because they didn't think how they wanted their lives to go."

So, like the unexpected outcome of his 30- by 15-foot swimming pool -- complete with waterfall, hot tub and impressive rock garden, Franzwa wants his students to begin cutting their own paths through life's rocky places.

"I find the current vogue of 'outcome assessments,' the new buzz phrase for evaluating faculty and everything else, kind of amusing," he said. "You really can't assess the outcome for students in a philosophy course unless you ask on their death bed, 'How did it come out, was it useful to you?' "

That said, Franzwa hopes others won't have to come along later and fix what he's tried to instill -- critical contemplation when caught between that rock and a hard place.