Gerald J. Cavanaugh is a native New Yorker who has spent the past 20 years in Ashland, a place he calls "a big small city."

Gerald J. Cavanaugh is a native New Yorker who has spent the past 20 years in Ashland, a place he calls "a big small city."

He says he and his wife, Ragan, appreciate the user-friendliness of Ashland and the Rogue Valley. Interesting and rewarding cultural attractions are easily accessible, he says.

Cavanaugh, a retired University of California at Berkeley history professor, has taught at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or OLLI, for two decades.

"There is no better, more rewarding, more stimulating activity than being a college professor," he says, before adding, "although it ain't what it used to be."

He passed the California bar but didn't practice law, which he laments was a road not taken and one he speculates he would have enjoyed.

He also managed a grocery store, worked at a General Electric appliance repair shop, and as a sorter-packer in the mail room at Time Inc. in Rockefeller Center.

Favorite aspect about Ashland: Gracious, intelligent people who read books, attend the theaters and are interested in ideas. There are so many venues for music, theater and the arts of all kinds. The Rogue Valley is a wonder.

Favorite civic aspects: Lithia Park, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Southern Oregon University, Ashland Family YMCA, Ashland library and OLLI. Plus so many nice cafes and eateries and all that jazz.

Academic highlights: Earned a doctorate in European history from Columbia University, N.Y., in 1967.

Also a law degree at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, and passed the California bar in 1992.

Give us a few career highlights: Taught at Columbia, Princeton, George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and mainly at U.C. Berkeley until retirement in 1993.

When do you lecture? Mainly at OLLI since 1994, but "have words will travel" to Unitarians, Elks and other civic groups, Peace House, political groups, unions.

What facts about your subjects get your audiences' attention? The difference between "history" and the "useful past" or ideology. In capitalism, for example, too many Americans have no idea that the so-named economic system did not exist in any meaningful way until the 18th century. It is difficult for Americans to imagine any other system, even if their knowledge of capitalism itself is sketchy.

Americans in general find it difficult to think in "historical" terms. This is not entirely a personal fault: there is much in history that is "covered up" for political purposes. This is not by any means limited to American history.

How do you introduce yourself to your class? I do have a local reputation, but I have no problem introducing myself and my topic. At OLLI, most members know I am a socialist seeking the abolition and transcendence of capitalism. Local audiences know generally what I am about; for others, I sketch out my views beforehand.

How do we learn more about you? I am compiling a collection of my essays and commentaries, hoping to have them published.