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spacer spacer spacer spacer spacer March 8, 2007

Up close and personal with the banjo-loving president


William Destler comes from a family of “humanists”—including his wife, Rebecca Johnson, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology, and his father, who was a historian, along with other family members who pursued math and the humanities.

His professional interest leads the self-described black sheep to joke, “I’m the only person I know who rebelled against his family by going into engineering.”

The couple has two sons, a computer science and theater major at the University of Maryland; and a senior in high school.

Destler wasn’t drawn to RIT only by the university’s growing reputation, its eclectic mix of well-regarded programs and unique niches, its first-place men’s hockey team, or the Rochester area’s third snowiest February ever. He was also attracted by Bernunzio Vintage Instruments, on East Avenue, which Destler describes as one of the finest antique banjo shops.

“I am one of the world’s foremost collectors of antique banjos,” Destler confessed at an open forum at RIT, admitting to his “deviant” behavior.

Destler has a Web site showcasing his hobby at www.billsbanjos.com/index.htm. “The exact number I have is a secret from my wife—it’s more than a hundred,” he says.

Numerous times during two open forums, held on consecutive days, Feb. 19 and 20, Destler flashed his sense of humor, eliciting laughter and supportive applause from those gathered in RIT’s Ingle Auditorium.

Destler and his wife also share an interest in alternative-powered vehicles and scooters.

Michael Saffran

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