by Julie France and Hannah Steigmeyer
John Green: I just wanted to say that I feel bad because when I was a student at Kenyon, there was a guy … who was a Bigfoot researcher whose name is John Green. He was quite famous at the time and the leading proponent of Bigfoot being a real thing and I hated that. So [Jon], if you hate me, I understand, but forgive me.
Jon Green: No, not at all. I think that every generation [at]Kenyon needs its own John Green.
Jon, have you ever been mistaken for John Green, the author?
Jon: Not in person. Occasionally people write online, and when they write online, and misspell [my first name] it will look like they’re talking about me when they’re not … I get asked, “Have you met him? Do you read all of his books?” And I follow the [VlogBrothers, which feature John and his brother, Hank] YouTube videos religiously.
Have you considered swapping places for a day? What would be the best part about the switch?
John: Well, tell me a little more about your life. Are you dating?
Jon: Currently not.
John: Alright, well, that’s going to be worse [for me]. I’m married, so your life is going to get better in that respect. You’re a poli sci major, so that’s going to be a negative for me. Are you taking any English classes? Any religion or anything?
Jon: No, no.
John: That’s a disaster. But yeah, I would love to be back at school. This is cliché to say, but college is such a privilege and it’s so wasted on people in your generation, but yeah, I would love to be a full-time student. And yeah, there’s really nothing about my life that is fun except I have these kids and this wife.
Jon: I’ve got a really relaxed schedule.
John: The thing is, I think I would take more classes.
Why is “Jo(h)n Green” such a great name?
Jon: People tend to truncate it into a one-syllable word. People on my basketball team are like, “Hey, Jongreen.”
John: Yeah, yeah even my mom calls me “John Green.”
What makes a good writer?
Jon: You have to have some sort of emotional attachment to what you’re writing. … You have to have some mature backing to what you’re saying.
John: Yeah, that’s what I like about writing, is the making a connection with someone else, but not having to actually talk to them. I’m pretty introverted, so on an emotional level, a deep level, without having to actually communicate with them.
John, what makes a good student?
John: Inquisitiveness or intellectual curiosity, and an openness. I think it’s really hard to be open to intellectual experiences because they can be quite challenging. Also it’s particularly hard because we live in this echo chamber where it’s very easy to surround yourself with voices .… One of the pleasures of learning is that it pulls you out of your echo chamber.
John, how is Kenyon different from when you were a student?
John: Well, the gym is nicer. The food is dramatically, dramatically improved. And in general, the facilities have improved. The core of the Kenyon experience seems very similar to me. The students seem very similar to me. They’re smarter, they’re better; I would have never gotten into Kenyon in 2014. But the core of the experience seems very similar to me, which is fun.
What were the benefits of being here for five years? (Both Greens spent five years at Kenyon.)
Jon: Well, at least in my experience this year, you’ve sort of figured it out. … You get a sort of reflective look on what the previous four years meant, which a lot of other Kenyon students do not get.
John: Yeah, I really liked my fifth year. Well, I only had a fifth half-year, for the record. I missed a semester because I had whooping cough … but I did really have whooping cough — I know it’s an 18th-century peasant disease, but I had it. You can look it up in the files. If Dr. Schermer [former College physician] is still here he’ll vouch for me. But I did feel like I had it figured out. I also felt kind of — a little bit — like I owned the place. On some level, I felt like I could keep doing it for many years and I would only get better at it.
John, what was your favorite Kenyon class? Professor?
John: It’s hard to say, because I liked a lot of my classes. Professor [Donald] Rogan, a religious [studies] professor, was really important to me on a personal level, as well as on an academic one. … His class was hugely influential to me, and on the English side, Professor [Perry] Lentz, who’s now retired — his overview was sort of legendary at Kenyon. It was an 8 a.m. class and it was brutal and hard … and gosh, I mean, there’s so many. Professor [of Religious Studies Vernon] Schubel’s class, Intro to Islam … I had a great Russian professor, Professor [Natalia] Olshanskaya … she’s like the nicest woman in the world. She was very generous to me despite, “Ya nada? Ne? Goboroo po ryski.”
What’s your funniest Kenyon experience?
John: The funny things revolved around doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. I don’t wanna tell you.
Jon: The most fun parts about going to college in general is you have to waste enough time on people that you sort of mesh. This one time, a couple years ago, a friend wanted to go to the KAC and I didn’t and he literally dragged me by my sweatshirt strings and like we slid down to the KAC together and … that experience, that’s sort of going to college for me.
What is something you regret about your time at Kenyon?
John: Yeah, yeah, I have a ton of regrets. I regret not being a more attentive student, and also in general not being a more attentive person. I had, at many times, an insular life because of the nature of my mental health and I wish I had been much more open to experiences and particularly to the experience of class — and I mean, I did not miss that much class, but on a weekly basis, what if something happened in one of those lectures that I missed that would have given me another book or would have transformed my life. And then all of my other regrets are about girls.
Jon: Obviously, the classes that you wished you’d taken … I don’t have that many regrets.
John, what’s it like to be considered a famous Kenyon alum?
John: It’s surreal — I mean, I still don’t think of myself that way. I mean I love this college and I love Gambier and I feel very lucky to be back here and certainly very lucky to have the opportunity to speak to students … it is a little goofy, but I’m psyched.
Jon: I’ve always said that I want to be just famous enough to have a Wikipedia page dedicated to me
John: I have every ounce of confidence in you, Jon Green, that you will carry on the name heroically.