By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

I’m sure you have all heard of  “Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” That is the game in which you attempt to connect Kevin Bacon to any other actor in Hollywood history. Six Degrees of Bacon posits that the Footloose star has been in so many movies, that every actor is only six connections away from him.  The inspiration for the game is born of  “Six degrees of separation”, the notion that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by no more than six links.  Funny enough, I can connect myself to Kevin Bacon  in three steps.  I don’t know him, but I know someone, who knows someone else who does.  Ta-da!


Hannah Arendt


Dr. Peter Stern

I have come up with a Robert Morris University riff on this game: “Six Degrees of  Peter Stern”. Dr. Peter Stern is my RMU colleague, and friend. He teaches Philosophy and Political Science at the university, and you may recognize his name from the Turtle posts he has written.  What you may not realize is that he is a hub to numerous 20th century intellectual luminaries. You see, Peter was one of the last graduate students of Hannah Arendt, the sometimes controversial, always influential philosopher/political scientist/journalist.  A German-Jew, Arendt was one of many refugees from Nazi Germany, and a major figure in mid-twentieth century European intellectual life.  Her personal connections with some of the most recognizable minds of the twentieth century are staggering.  Since Peter knew her, he is one degree removed from her.  Because I know Peter, I am two steps removed from Arendt.  Knowing Peter, who knew Arendt, opens up a whole panoply of world famous names within the required six degrees. Let me show you how the game is played:

ME -> P. Stern -> H. Arendt -> Martin Heidegger (German Philosopher)


ME ->P. Stern -> H. Arendt -> Albert Camus/Jean Paul Sartre/Simone de Beauvoir (French Writer/French Philosopher/French Feminist)

picasso and camus

ME ->P. Stern ->H. Arendt -> Albert Camus -> Pablo Picasso (4 moves)picasso

ME ->P. Stern ->H. Arendt ->Vladimir Nabakov (Russian/American Novelist)images (6)

ME -> P. Stern ->H. Arendt -> W. H. Auden (British Poet).images (7)ME->P. Stern ->H. Arendt -> Sartre/de Beauvoir -> Che Guevara (Latin American Revolutionary/Cultural Icon)images (8)

This is just a taste of where I can go in three or four moves.  Things can get even more incredible if I move into the sixth degree. Have a look at this:

ME -> P. Stern -> H. Arendt -> Camus -> Andre Malraux (French Author/Politician) -> Charles de Gaulle ->Winston Churchill/Franklin Delano Roosevelt/Josef Stalin.

images (9)

FDR, De Gaulle, Churchill

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? These connections are open to all within the RMU community because of Dr. Peter Stern.  Seeing that he has a connection to so much twentieth century history, philosophy, literature and politics, it is no wonder Peter always carries himself with such aplomb and alacrity.

  1. Trish says:

    It’s an absolutely certainty that all of us become more awesome by simply knowing Dr. Stern!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s