Blue Bell resident and La Salle University finance Professor Joshua Buch turned 85 on April 28. Then he ran in the Penn Relays at Franklin Field two days later.
Buch completed the 100-meter dash in the 80-and-older group in 21.33 seconds, placing fourth. But the Jewish runner’s goal was not to finish first, he said.
It was to run his race.
“I just want to be there and finish,” Buch said before the event.
The octogenarian didn’t start running until his late 70s. While playing tennis one day, his opponent told him, “I never saw anyone run like you,” according to a post about Buch on La Salle’s website. The opponent also suggested that Buch sign up for a 75-and-older race at the Penn Relays.
The professor started doing research and quickly signed up. The 2022 relays marked the Blue Bell resident’s “sixth appearance and his first since 2019,” said Chris Vito, La Salle’s senior director of communications, in that website post. (Both the 2020 and ’21 events were canceled due to the pandemic.)
Buch, though, doesn’t consider himself a runner. He says many runners are better than him.
He is, however, a man who never stops running.
Buch is finishing his 51st year as a finance professor at La Salle. Every morning, he reads The Wall Street Journal before his 8 a.m. class; he says he needs to keep up with what’s going on in the finance world. Then he makes sure to get his 10,000 steps in before lunchtime, taking most of them in his classroom while teaching.
The professor walks all over the place, writes on the board, erases the board and writes some more. He also likes to call on different students and converse with them.
A month ago, he presented an academic paper at a conference. After that event, he reminded his students that he would be training for the Penn Relays the next day.
Buch was not bragging; he was teaching a life lesson.
“I just stay active physically and mentally,” Buch said. “You keep being active, and all will be good.”
In his spare time, Buch also plays tennis, researches his family history and watches “some stupid damn TV,” he said. He has time for it all because he’s not wasting his days on his cellphone or napping, he added.
The professor does not want to become one of those old people who naps during the day and then can’t sleep at night. As he explains, human beings “can only sleep a certain number of hours.”
For Buch, this active approach to life starts with a mindset.
“The glass is always half-full, maybe three-quarters full,” he said.
The Israeli became indefatigable as a kid in the Jewish homeland. He remembers his father “getting up in the morning to work very hard.” When the father brought his son to help pick up oranges in his groves, the young boy picked up the same work ethic.
He’s been like that ever since, according to his brother Udi Buch.
“He never stops being worried about everything and everybody in every way,” the brother said. “He’s concerned about everything around him.”
After earning his degree in agronomy in Israel, Buch wanted to get an MBA, too. But at the time, Israel did not have a program. So, the 25-year-old got a visa and came to stay with family members in Philadelphia.
Then he applied to Temple University, got in and earned his MBA. After that, he earned a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania for good measure. Finally, in 1971, Buch applied for a teaching job at La Salle and landed it.
More than 50 years into his career, he still loves math, issues related to the exchange rate and various other finance topics. But more than the subject itself, Buch enjoys his students.
Year after year, this aging professor doesn’t age; and it’s probably because he keeps interacting with young people, he says.
“It’s never the same. It can be quite challenging,” Buch added. “Students ask us questions sometimes and it’s really neat. You have to be on your toes. These kids are smart.”
Deb Buch, the professor’s wife, also credits the students for keeping her husband young. By taking on new groups each year, the runner is embracing new challenges and experiences, too.
And that’s just how he lives in general, according to Deb Buch. Much like running, the professor did not pick up tennis until he was a much older man.
“He continues to do new things. He constantly is reinventing himself,” Deb Buch said. JE