Political science professor Ronald King has an array of extra-curricular activities, ranging from fencing to Mardi Gras celebrations.
Strolling down campus every morning in funky Hawaiian shirts, Ronald King seems like any other political science professor to most students. There is an air of intelligence about him.
However, he is anything but ordinary. If you get to know him, you’ll learn of his many eclectic interests which range from competitive fencing to participating almost every year in Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
As a political science professor at San Diego State, he has an understanding of life and feels it’s his responsibility to “adjust for these complications.” If a student has to miss an exam because she has to take care of her sick daughter, then he will accommodate her.
An Oxford graduate with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, King has an impressive career in academics. He previously taught at Cornell and Tulane universities, and teaches “just about the same material with just about the same standards for SDSU students.
King is often 35,000 feet in the air, flying to different parts of the world as a scholar. His interest in Romanian politics began in 1995. “(I was) invited to visit Romania through the Fulbright Program and teach research methods to the first post- revolutionary graduating class in political science,” King said. He continues to visit Romania annually to mentor and co-author with young scholars.
He met his wife, “A brilliant, red-haired woman from Transylvania,” at a keynote address conference in Sibiu.
Someone had told him Ms. Adriana Groza was “interested in cross-cultural conversation and spoke good English,” which motivated him to meet her. Their conversations continued for many years.
“It was a long-distance relationship. It took us a while to get into the same time zone.” They got married and Groza moved to the U.S. She is currently a professor at SDSU’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies.
When King is not traveling around the world as a scholar, he is touring as a competitive fencer, representing the U.S. internationally. King played many different sports growing up. He discovered fencing at a summer camp he attended in high school and enjoyed it so much he decided to train seriously.
By the time he was in college, he was a member of the NCAA championship team. King currently fences in the U.S. Fencing League in the veteran’s circuit. According to USA Fencing, King made the last three U.S. Veteran World Championship teams, placed sixth in the world in his age bracket in 2009 in Moscow and 13th in the 2010 Veteran World Championship in Croatia.
A man of diverse interests, King is a member of the Jefferson City Buzzards, which was founded in 1890 and is the oldest marching club in New Orleans Mardi Gras.
Past to present
King lived in New Orleans for 15 years and visits almost every year to attend Mardi Gras, spreading joy throughout the neighborhood with other members dressed in colorful carnival costumes. They hand out silk flowers to children, old women and sometimes pretty girls according to King. On the rare occasion he is in San Diego during Mardi Gras, he can be seen sporting beads on campus and spreading Mardi Gras spirit to his students.
King attributes his unique outlook on the world to his experiences living in many different cities around the globe. He developed an interest in politics from a very young age.
“I grew up in New York City across the street from a welfare housing project. I could see out my window the towers of Manhattan and so questions of wealth and inequality were always in front of my mind," King said.
He decided he wanted to be a scholar when he was 20 years old and has been pursuing an academic career ever since. He is a published author of four books and roughly 40 articles.
“But I don’t keep count,” he says, laughing.
“I came to SDSU because I decided I wanted to administer. There is no sense administering in a university like Tulane, where they have all the resources and everything is easy," he said.
He wanted to be able to make a difference, and he did. While he was chair, the department ranked among the top 100 political science departments in the nation. He gave up his administrative duties two academic years ago to return to the faculty because “universities are dependent on self-government, and the next generation was ready to take over” his responsibilities.
King often deals with the media, commenting on politics and says it is an art some people are better at than others.
“I’m not that good at it, but I try. Being able to say something that is both a sound bite and somewhat profound in bringing in scholarship is a real art, and very hard to do in six sentences.”
His colleague professor, Kristin Maher thinks he is just being modest. She believes he’s “quick- witted on his feet” and therefore great at dealing with the media and providing intelligent commentary.
Reflecting on his career, King believes he’s reached a level of self-fulfillment.
“I’ve had a reasonably successful career and there aren’t many hurdles left in front of me. I am pretty content continuing to do what I do for as long as I can do it,” he says, with a glimmer in his eyes.
This story originally appeared in The Daily Aztec.