Living a Happy Life
My friend Dr. Lee Hagglund retired this spring after teaching at Wofford for 35 years (1977-2012). On Thursday, April 19, he delivered his “last lecture” to a capacity crowd in the teaching theater of the F.W. Olin Building. The talk was titled, “How to Tune Your Lute, or How the Pythagoreans Could Have Seen the Ocean from Their Boats.” The title would be a little difficult to explain in just a few sentences, but the scholarly work behind it was thorough and convincing, and it was delivered with a passion typical of Hagglund’s career at Wofford. Listening to him speak was fun.
When it came time to bring the lecture to a conclusion, I grabbed my pen and notebook, because I realized quickly that Lee Hagglund was in the process of sharing something special about himself:
“Five Suggestions for Living a Happy Life”
1. Make your living at something you love to do.
Hagglund grew up near the campus of a fine liberal arts institution, Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. His late father was a professor and registrar there for many years. After graduating Summa Cum Laude in Mathematics and German from Gustavus, he studied mathematics and the German language at the University of Munich before earning his Ph.D. in mathematics at Duke University. The “life of the mind” at Wofford came naturally to Hagglund. It involved teaching in a classroom setting and leading problem-solving institutes for public school teachers, but it also included fascinating January Interims. One particularly memorable project in the early 1980s explored the mathematics behind Rubik’s Cube, which I saw him solve almost instantly with a few deft twists and turns. He has ridden his bicycle in the assaults on Marion and Mount Mitchell and is a huge fan of Jeopardy! and college basketball.
Members of the current Wofford student body do not realize that Lee Hagglund once was a member of a folk trio called the “West Winds,” which regularly performed on the busy campus circuit in the Upper Midwest. One summer during the 1960s, he sang duets and discussed going out on tour with the late John Deutschendorf, who later became better known by the stage name John Denver. As an encore to his last lecture, Hagglund agreed to sing one of his signature numbers, “Them Moose Goosers,” from “Them Poems” by Mason Williams. (It’s hilarious— google it and check out the lyrics!) In fairness, one should also acknowledge that Hagglund is an accomplished choral musician, who sings with Wofford and civic chorales as well as directing the Chancel Choir of St. John’s Lutheran Church.
2. Be easily entertained.
Hagglund asserts that mathematicians have this trait built in. “Give us a pencil and a blank piece of paper and we’re as happy as clams.” And … “If the Three Stooges don’t make you convulse with laughter you may be taking life too seriously.”
3. Marry someone who is a better human being than you.
Lee and Kitty Hagglund have been respected and popular members of the Wofford community since they arrived in Spartanburg. Their son Curtis Hagglund graduated from Wofford in 1994, and their son Erik graduated in 1997.
4. Have a dog in your life.
In the case of the Hagglund household, the dogs, plural, are a rescue Golden Retriever “Sam,” a yellow lab “Daisy,” and a Jack Russell Terrier “Oliver,” that seem human and are treated and loved as such.
5. Listen to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Hagglund explained in his lecture that he and a group of graduate-student friends at Duke had a running debate that attempted to identify the single greatest genius of Western civilization. In the end they could only agree on a list of the top five. They are J.S. Bach, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare and the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. Hagglund admits that there’s room for some debate, but he’s never been tempted to alter that list, and it’s especially easy to see why Bach’s pure, precise instrumentals and complex, inspiring choral works would delight a mathematician.
After retirement, expect Dr. Hagglund to be busy in and around Spartanburg. His endeavors most likely will include trying his hand at writing fiction, joining Kitty in taking up golf again, riding his bicycle, and spoiling his grandchildren. I expect he will have much success and continue following his rules for enjoying life.