For most of us, sitting down to dinner with our family is an expected and even enjoyable part of everyday life. The idea of sitting down next to them in the classroom, however, is probably something we’d find a bit more foreign — perhaps in some cases, even cringe-inducing. But that scenario is one that alumni and professors Jon Squire ‘96, M.S., Computer Science, and Shawn Squire ‘12, Computer Science, have experienced — and enjoyed — time and again here on UMBC’s campus. That’s because, for the Squire family, education is as much a family affair as the evening meal.
That love of learning and shared passion for the computer sciences led both Jon and Shawn to learn and teach at UMBC. Jon got his start in programming in 1958, and his 34-year career at Northrop Grumman and Ph.D. made him a natural choice to teach and conduct research at UMBC. While Jon has written more than one million lines of code in at least 14 different coding languages since 1958, his grandson Shawn may be a bit newer to the field, but he’s no less passionate than his grandfather. The 23-year-old is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Computer Science at UMBC, and his natural aptitude for the material led to the invitation to teach.
Of course, teaching and studying on the same campus has led to some atypical encounters for the Squires. In fact, Jon once unknowingly signed up for the same class as another family member — his son, Shawn’s father. And Shawn knew he’d inevitably wind up as a student in Jon’s classes, which are required courses for Shawn’s degree. Though his classmates joked that his grandpa probably showed him favoritism in class, Shawn explains, “if anything, it was probably the opposite of that,” because Jon expected his grandson to do well on his own. Though they are careful to keep their on-campus relationship professional — both admit it’s odd when Shawn has to choose between addressing Jon as “Grandpa” or “Professor Squire” — the duo does take it in stride. For them, it’s just another day on campus.
Certainly, there are also benefits to working and learning together — their shared passion means Shawn and Jon have a unique connection. When the opportunity arose for Shawn to teach, he welcomed it, but adds that seeing his grandfather at work in the classroom made him even more confident in his decision. “I liked seeing my grandfather at work and enjoying what he did,” Shawn explains. And it’s clear that they both share a love of the classroom. One of the aspects of teaching they both enjoy are those “ah-hah” moments the students have when they understand the material. “You start to see all those light bulbs going on,” says Jon, and that alone makes teaching worthwhile.
Sharing knowledge with others, especially those who are eager to learn, is a gift. It’s the reason Jon has been teaching for so many years, and it makes Shawn certain he’ll continue on in his new teaching career. And if they can teach on the same campus, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
–By Jessie Orsburn