“Raise your hand if you’re not here….” This paradoxical segway into class is perhaps an appropriate (and familiar) way to start the period with a man who is possibly just as confounding as the saying itself. Amidst the long roster of substitute teachers who may have appeared in your classrooms over the years, surely no others have piqued your interest more than Dr. Yerky, the unusually well-educated and well-versed doctor whom we’ve all gotten to know—but not well enough. Until now, the mystery that is “Dr. Yerky” has remained unattended.
Abe Messing ’17: Thanks for sitting down with me. Perhaps the first thing that students wonder about you is your origin. You have an accent of some sort; where are you originally from?
Mike Yerky: I spent my childhood and adolescence in Switzerland. I completed all of my education there and then came to the United States as a postdoc to study at the San Diego Zoo. Eventually, I wound up in Ithaca.
AM: How long have you been a teacher at IHS?
MY: I came to Ithaca in 2001, and I was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2002 inside of the IHS gymnasium. Despite my Swiss background, my given first name is, indeed, Mike. My middle name, on the other hand, is Darwin, one that I chose myself in order to pay homage to a personal hero of mine.
AM: If you met yourself in real life, would you be friends with yourself?
MY: Of course, I definitely think I would. He and I would probably become best friends. We would probably spend our time watching movies, perhaps enjoy a nice stout or bordeaux together, discussing politics, science, and the like. There would be no issues between me and I.
AM: The prefix of your name is “Dr.” What is your field of expertise? Do you practice it?
MY: My PhD is in physical anthropology, specifically non-human primates—monkey science, in other words. During my time at the San Diego Zoo, my research was centered around comparing hormone levels and behavior in certain species of non-human primates. After I completed my postdoc, I came to Cornell, where I decided to switch gears and teach biology.
AM: What is something that you’ve never told anyone in your life?
MY: Hmmmm… I tell everything? I’m an honest man.
AM: Terrific. I didn’t expect you to answer that one.
AM: A man as mysterious as yourself must have some special talents or hobbies. What are they?
MY: I’m a big fan of boxing, science, evolution, and Formula One Racing. In fact, I drive a Grand Prix 2002 Dart Cherry 40th anniversary with two-tone leather and Bose sound system. I just recently got rid of 2000 Grand Prix, which I loved. I also like to stay up to date ordinarily, but I’ve recently decided to take a news diet because I am easily frustrated by everything.
AM: Have you ever had short hair?
MY: Nope! Haven’t had short hair in 35 years.
AM: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MY: Hopefully I’ll be retired! I’ve been teaching long enough and I certainly need a break.