Circling Back with Gary Buslik

Gary Buslik lied to his parents about his major up until graduation.

He was undecided for a portion of his undergraduate career, using pre-law as a guise, even when he chose to become an English major.

“When my parents found out, my dad used to go around the house yelling ‘big man, he knows the parts of speech,’” Buslik said. “My mother just cried.”

His parents didn’t know his choice to major in English didn’t just confirm he knew the parts of speech. Buslik has had a successful career as an award-winning novelist, short story writer and English lecturer UIC.

Buslik has been a Flame since 1965, back when the University of Illinois at Chicago was known as the Circle Campus. Heading to a four-year university was a big deal for Buslik, who came from a working-class family that couldn’t afford to send him or his three siblings downstate to Urbana, let alone anywhere else.

"In a very vital way, UIC really saved my life."

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1968, still unsure of what he wanted to do. He began a successful career as a businessman, but never allowed the love he developed for literature in the Richard J. Daley Library to fade. In 1998, Buslik’s novel “The Missionary’s Position” was published, followed by two more novels in 2008 and 2012.

Buslik spent time overseas, basing many of his stories on his time in the Caribbean. But he couldn’t stay away from home forever. A friend of his who happened to be the head of the English department was in need of an “old-timer” to come back and teach the classics. So Buslik came back, earned his PhD, and now recites Shakespearean soliloquies to students sitting in the very same seats he sat in as a student.

"It’s a strange feeling how time has been telescoped,” Buslik said. “The desks are the same, the lockers are the same, they certainly haven’t cleaned them in 50 years."

To this day, Buslik keeps in touch with his friends from his Iota Chi fraternity back in Circle days. They get together and play poker on a table with so much dust buried in the felt “that it could start up a mushroom cloud.”

He wants to make sure the folks like him, the ones that went from having nothing to having a lot more than their parents could have dreamed for them, give back to UIC. Buslik served on the library development board for a few years, and had the opportunity to reconnect with alumni from his time.

"They may not have the same school spirit that people from Urbana or Purdue have,” Buslik said. “But UIC really saved us, and I think it still gives students a chance to succeed in a way they may not have without it."

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