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Porn star turned lecturer earns students’ respect

Ruggero Freddi has three degrees: “I know my subject and feel no embarrassment”

“Only this morning I was in class with 80 students discussing second-order derivatives, concavity and convexity,” he explains, talking in the Department of Clinical Engineering at Rome’s La Sapienza University, where he teaches Pure Mathematics – Analysis. We wouldn’t be here talking about it, if the person writing incomprehensible formulas on the board were not Ruggero Freddi, 41, a Roman from Ponte Lungo, 5’9” tall and weighing 15 stone, with the physique of a bodybuilder, earrings, and rings on every finger.

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His CV mentions a diploma from a technical college (“Despite failing maths. I don’t want to sound like I’m some kind of Pasolini, but at that age, I had a father who sold ice creams, a mother without a steady job. I was poor, a repressed homosexual and I didn’t understand anything”). He also obtained a degree in IT Engineering in 2013 with a final mark of 106/110 (“I ruined my average with my first exams and a few low marks”). In addition, he holds two degrees in Mathematics – a bachelor’s degree and a master’s – awarded in 2013 and 2016 respectively, both with top marks. In between, he can boast a successful, lucrative career in San Francisco, where he became a real star, spending seven years working as a porn actor in gay films under the stage name of Carlo Masi. “I stopped when I was at the top; I had achieved everything I could”.

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You returned to your studies at the age of 34?
– “I thought I would be too old and rusty, but I really enjoyed it. And since I am very competitive, I had to get top marks in every exam.”

You are not (yet) an official lecturer as such, but are studying for your doctorate, is that right?
– “During the three years of doctoral study you can apply to teach some of the subjects on the degree course. I did, and was appointed. Last year I was a tutor, and this year I teach the Analysis course with Prof. Angela Pistoia. I don’t have an academic title or tenure, but I do have my own office in the Department and a university email address. I provide the students with tutoring and above all give lectures.”

How do the students treat you? I imagine they know about your past.
– “Nobody has ever asked me any questions that were not related to the course. They all take me seriously, as is only right, because I know my subject. They are very respectful. I usually start out by saying, “You don’t know maths; nor do I, so let’s try and work it out together.” The students are well-mannered, eager to learn and curious about such an unusual teacher.”

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Have there ever been any awkward moments?
– “I can only think of one. It was at my first lesson, and I was wearing a pullover, with a tight t-shirt underneath. It was hot, so I took off my pullover, only to hear a chorus of “wow” from the class. I am well-built, I can’t disguise the fact. I felt flattered at first, but realized I had compromised my respectability. Since then I have always worn a jacket and shirt.”

What does the professor in charge of the course think of her unusual co-teacher?
– “She’s really nice and very kind. She certainly knows about my past, but we don’t talk about it. When I feel down and think I’m not as good as the others, she is the first to encourage me.”

You must have earned more on the set.
– “I put by enough to live on, to supplement my scholarship of €1,016 and my extra pay for lessons. I believe in the importance of education, but although study improves your mind, it certainly doesn’t make you rich: I have friends from university, real geniuses, who still live with the same housemates they did back then.”

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Source: corriere.it