Dr. Michael Torello: Psychology professor, comedian, astronomer, coin collector, bug artist

Feature

by Diana Crandall

If the measure of a man is evaluated by his ability to make people laugh, then Dr. Michael Torello is the king of campus. Although he refers to himself as “old school”, his methods of teaching are far from traditional.

From the exploitation of animals in his introductory classes (“Make sure you get his consent, first. Meow! Kitty says yes.”) to his far-out lectures in astronomy, students of every major are lining up to take a class from Dr. Torello. Within days of registration, his courses are filled and students often find themselves waiting outside his door with a write-in slip to find their way into his classroom.

His in-class examples and hysterical satire are so popular amongst his students, that in 2011, Dr. Torello gained a large following on Twitter with the anonymous creation of “Tweets by Torello.” Students could tweet funny quips from class and the operating over the Twitter handle would retweet to share the laughs on a public profile.

When asked about the documentation of his jokes on social media, Dr. Torello admitted to some relief that the page has since been deactivated.

“[My comments] don’t fly into the ether and dissipate anymore, they were on Twitter. It’s out of context,” Torello said. “To have 350 followers, I almost had enough to start a cult.”

Twitter isn’t the only form of social media that Dr. Torello has taken over. With more than 65 reviews on his two “Rate My Professor” profiles, students rave not only about his classes, but also about his passion, his intelligence, and the amount of effort he puts into his relationships with students.

“Visit his office sometime, because he’s great to talk to. He’s my advisor, I couldn’t be happier,” one reviewer said.

Others echo this sentiment, raving about his unorthodox methods and his wildly inappropriate, but hilarious lectures: “He’s easy to connect to as a college student. I took classes I really didn’t want to just because he was teaching them.”

In addition to rave reviews, he also has a burning chile on Rate My Professor’s “hotness” scale. When asked about this, he immediately quipped, “I don’t exfoliate nearly enough for that.”

Despite the flaming pepper, Dr. Torello admits to trouble with his past romances.

“Relationships have always been a challenge. EHarmony and Match. com are just a few of my many failures. I think that I’m a terrific date for about 45 minutes,” Dr. Torello said, drawing memories from a date he had with a woman diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“At the end of my hour of coffee with this woman who was totally out of my league, she stated: ‘I don’t know if I’ll die from this cancer or go into remission, but I want to bet that I’ll have enough time left to find someone more to my liking than you.’ Wow that hurt! Dear God, we simply had coffee, just say thank you and go home.”

Albeit his talent and ability to send anyone out of the room with a smile on their face, Dr. Torello affirmed he will be keeping the laughs inside the classroom, and affirmed that he isn’t keen to take his humor out of lecture.

“I briefly thought about doing some standup comedy, but wasn’t courageous enough. I can write humor, but delivering it in a club setting, no. I would become profusely incontinent,” Dr. Torello said. “Humor is a wonderful way to compliment lectures. I think people won’t want to go to sleep, I think people want to become more engaged. You can be too goofy, and then it’s worthless, but I try to make it clinically relevant. Instead of going by the book, I want to inject a clinical case study.”

When he isn’t playing the funny man, Dr. Torello is a family man with one son, David, and a daughter, Kristen. Along with his children he has three grandchildren: Anthony, Ryan, and Trey. Dr. Torello also has a slew of unusual interests that compliment his eclectic personality. Both current and past hobbies include everything from astronomy and coin collecting to electronics and bug art.

When asked about this alternative form of expression, Dr. Torello simply answered, “I like to take bugs and put them in unusual situations. When you’re under the microscope doing this, it’s a different, more personal reality.”

Dr. Torello also has had some incredible experiences throughout his life, his favorite of which was when he was a photographer for his school newspaper.

“I was at the Apollo 14 launch taking pictures for the school newspaper. I could feel the sound waves in my chest, and we were three miles away at thepressbooth.Itwasoneofthecoolest things I’ve ever done,” Dr. Torello said.

Apart from his hobbies and hilarity, Dr. Torello has an extensive and impressive academic rap sheet.

“I have published extensively on the biology of mental illness, and maintain a research interest in psychophysiology,” Dr. Torello said. In addition to his publications are his academic credentials, which include a Ph.D from The Ohio State University and a post-doctoral fellowship in Biological Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in 1985. He rounded off 1999 with a seven- month sabbatical at Yale University.

He doesn’t always play in the big leagues, though. Dr. Torello has been a full time faculty member at Capital since 1992, and has since won several different awards through the school. In 1996, he was awarded the Praestantia Award for excellence in teaching. Just two years later, he was given the Cotterman Award for faculty service to students. His love for his students and our university is clear.

“It is very rewarding for me to witness student success. I hug every student I know at graduation and wish them luck on future endeavors. Often, students contact me when they graduate and update me on their successes. These are wonderful moments,” Dr. Torello said.

“Lately, I have concentrated on teaching. I dislike administrative responsibilities and would rather be telling stories in front of a class of students or prospective students and their parents. I’m good at this, and love to tell people what Capital University is and what it has to offer.”

When registration for fall semester opens later this spring, consider taking a class from Dr. Torello. You certainly won’t find yourself falling asleep during the lecture.

dcrandal@capital.edu

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