Fun fact: did you know that Richard Bowman, the current president of the Society of American Magicians, was a student at Penn State? Understandably, the college seems pretty chuffed by the connection, and independent student newspaper the Daily Collegian ran a profile of the venerable magic leader this week.

Bowman shared plenty of anecdotes with the paper, including his first exposure to magic and his first formal show with a friend he made while in the U.S. Air Force. One of the most fascinating parts of Bowman’s history is how he thinks about the role of a stage persona.

“Many do the same tricks — developed and refined over the years, but those who can adapt the tricks and infuse their personality to make it their own is what can make it special for their audiences,” said Bowman, who frequently uses the moniker Professor Higgins for his act.

He’s also a big believer in the use of comedy in magic, and not just because he likes to laugh. “I try to have fun with the audience, do and say some crazy stuff, while at the same time having them think, ‘How did he do that?’,” he said. “When they are laughing, they can’t concentrate on figuring out the method behind the trick.”

Bowman is also excited about the potential for magic to be a seriously studied and taught field.“I believe that we could have magic classes in colleges and universities, just as we have other performing arts classes like music and theater,” he said. Bowman is hoping to recruit other people from his alma mater to follow his path into performance magic.

Read the interview, with loads more great quotes and insights from the man himself, here on the Daily Collegian website. Magic has been a bit of a focus for the paper lately. The Daily Collegian also profiled Ben Salinas, a Penn State alumnus who formed a school club for magicians and now works in IT. 

By day, Ben Salinas is an IT specialist for a grant website that helps provide nutrition education for food stamp recipients. By night, Salinas moonlights as a magician at Pennsylvania restaurants. Penn State newspaper The Daily Collegian recently profiled his magical exploits, and even edited together a neat little video, which you can watch above.

When Salinas went to Penn State in 1996, he helped form the Penn State Performing Magicians, a group that would help fellow students practice their craft. He even got the attention of a few of the local faculty members, including the then-President of Penn State. Now, he’s faculty adviser of the same club, and has since gone on to perform magic in and around Pennsylvania for a variety of local and national celebrities. He even created his own line of DVDs, which you can pick up on his website.

Salinas continues to perform, even years removed from college and despite having a steady tech gig. “It’s a thrill. I feel a rush when I get on stage in front of 300 people,” Salinas told the paper. “You have this talent that people love to see, how awesome is that?”