Honovich abandoned politics for philosophy

by Maura Henninger | 4/18/97 5:00am

John Honovich '97, widely regarded as the leader of a new conservative movement during his first two years at the College, used to get a lot of attention. Every week he butted heads with Danielle Moore '95, the liberal Student Assembly president who resigned in November 1994.

Honovich rose to prominence his freshman year, when he ran for membership to the Student Assembly as part of the "Reform SA!" ticket, a group of conservative students who ran together as a block.

Bickering between Honovich and the Assembly's liberal leadership ultimately resulted in eight of the 12 members of the Assembly's Executive Committee asking him to resign as secretary.

They accused him of "encouraging infighting, confrontation, unproductivity, a poor public image" and not meeting the expectations of the student body. When Moore stepped down as president, she cited Honovich as a reason.

Honovich did not resign. Instead, he was elected Assembly vice president by Assembly members when Vice President Rukmini Sichitiu '95 assumed Moore's duties.

During his first two years, Honovich appeared in 120 articles in The Dartmouth. This year, Honovich's last at Dartmouth, he has appeared in The Dartmouth only once.

So where has John Honovich gone? Can a person who rose to prominence in just a few months disappear just as quickly?

After he withdrew from student politics, Honovich tried to be a typical Dartmouth student -- and failed. Dissatisfied with the prospects of corporate life, Honovich has since devoted himself to academics, and, in particular, philosophy.

"What I've gone through in the past two years is a lot of personal growth," he said. "I've become more reflective in many ways, which I suppose would make me a worse student politician."

"I have become more mature over the last year and I can see politics as detrimental. I just see politics but not a lot of productivity," he told the Dartmouth in 1995.

During his junior year, Honovich took two terms off to work for a law firm and for the securities firm J.P. Morgan. Honovich quit the job at J.P. Morgan after finding the work dull and not challenging and his colleagues unhappy.

"I found out that I wasn't content with the standard career path of a Dartmouth student," he said. "I wanted something deeper, more fulfilling."

Honovich said he has found fulfillment in academics, specifically political philosophy and theory.

A government major, he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in political philosophy at New York University after graduation. He said he would eventually like to use his knowledge in a political or activist venue.

David Evans '97, a friend of Honovich, said, "He was an excellent campus politician and has some of the best political instincts. But he lacked intellectual depth. He's now very serious about political philosophy, not in an abstract way, but in studying it and applying it to life."

Assistant Government Professor Norberto De Sousa, with whom Honovich has taken three courses and pursued independent study, agreed about Honovich's qualities.

"He's the most refreshing and motivated student I know here. He has really interesting things to say and his enthusiasm, especially about the German philosophers like Kant, Hegel and Nietzche, is at a level you just don't always find here at Dartmouth," De Sousa said.

Although he has dedicated himself to academics, Honovich said he has not completely withdrawn from politics on campus.

He serves as the president of the Conservative Union at Dartmouth. With Chairman Michael New '97, Honovich shares the responsibilities of leading an organization which is vigorously involved in conservative politics at both local and national levels.

But Honovich's friend Bill Kartalopoulos '97 said Honovich's role revolves more around encouraging on-campus debate.

"He's now in the most prominent position he's been in as a campus conservative and president of CUAD. He takes the position in a far less dogmatic way than you would think," Kartalopoulos said. "He's good at finding the philosophical roots of a problem and encouraging an open and interesting discussion."

But Honovich's absence from the Assembly does not equal silence. He is still quick to question the College's operations

He feels the College has a dearth of truly passionate and reflective leaders among its students.

"I've heard some of the candidates for SA this year say how much they love this school," he said. "But that love is blind. They're not dealing with the big issues as much."

"If changing registrar hours and putting BlitzMail computers in the Hop is all there is, we're dealing with a utopia," he said.

Honovich believes College President James Freedman's efforts to bring more intellectuals to the College may remedy the lack of campus leaders, but there will be a transitional period in which these students will take time to assimilate.

"Among the 2000s, I've seen a lot more intellectual energy than in any other class," he said.

Honovich said he thinks the Assembly may return to being highly political, as it was when he was involved.

"These things go in about three year cycles," he said.