Mideast was his classroom - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mideast was his classroom

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Posted: Saturday, March 6, 2004 6:27 am | Updated: 5:21 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Denis Egan began his teaching career in the unlikeliest way — as a 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan teaching English to high school girls in 1965.

"If you can imagine that," he said reflectively.

Unlikely in that the country was ruled by a king, there was no Taliban, Afghani women were allowed an education and the nation was at peace.

Egan said he has fond memories of a teaching career that took him to Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

He shares his experiences and in-depth knowledge of the Mideast in popular discussions throughout the East Valley. The next discussion with available seating is scheduled for March 15 at the Fountain Hills Senior Center.

Most of his discussions are based on the latest headlines out of the Middle East. "The news tends to be really superficial so I like to expand on what’s been reported on to give people a perspective and historical context to events," he said.

For example: This week’s bombings in Iraq.

"Tuesday was the holiest day for Shiite Muslims," Egan said. "It’s not too surprising that a few Sunni purists would pick on the minority, yet once ruling sect of Iraq."

The educator said he enjoyed the people and his experiences in the Mideast, except for a few times when he feared for his safety. He left Iran in 1978 after receiving a phone call that warned: "Mr. Egan we’ve put a bomb in your building."

The educator said he wasn’t particularly fearful because he knew most of the protesting Iranians. "They were the same ones in my English classes," he said. Yet, Egan said it was clear that revolution was coming.

He left Iran for Scottsdale on Dec. 1, 1978. "In November of 1979 my counterparts were taken hostage and held in the embassy in Tehran," he said.

Undaunted, Egan returned to the Middle East in the 1990s when he assumed a teaching position in Saudi Arabia. The terrorists attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, convinced him to return home, he said.

Nancy Olson at the Fountain Hills Senior Center said Egan will appear twice this spring.

If you go

What: Headlines of the Week, a discussion with Denis Egan

Where: Fountain Hills Senior Center, 16836 E. Palisades

When: 10 a.m. March 15 and April 5

Cost: $10; to register or for questions, call (480) 816-5888

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