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Tim Arem alias T-Bone

When Tim Arem graduated from Alfred University in 1976, his Bachelor’s degree in elementary education helped him land a teaching job in Tucson, AZ. He began his formal education career in a private school, living on the grounds in a student dormitory. Then, toward the end of the year, he heard about a man who was offering an eight-week class in clowning at the University of Arizona.

“I’d always wanted to learn how to juggle,” he says.

That was forty years ago. Now, from his radio studio in Ashville, NC, Arem looks back on a career that has spanned teaching, professional sports, writing – and, yes, clowning. He studied professional clowning in Tucson, then moved with friends to Los Angeles, where a public relations firm interviewed him for a clown’s job. The interviewer turned out to be a representative for McDonald’s Corp, and Arem’s teaching experience and bachelor’s degree in elementary education made his application a stand-out.

And he became a Ronald McDonald.

He worked the company’s southern California territory as a Ronald McDonald for four years, visiting schools, performing at special events, meeting and talking with elementary school children. He performed at Disneyland, he threw a pitch at Dodger Stadium in front of 50,000 people, he traveled on blimps and helicopters, and once he rode on horseback with the actor Richard Chamberlain.

More jobs followed. He acted professionally, including a gig as the Wolfman in a special production of The Munsters. McDonald’s hired him to perform as the character Mac Tonight, and Reebok hired him to represent the company at physical fitness events (He had also run competitively at AU). He wrote books, including Nordic Walking: A Total body Experience. Later in life, he transitioned into radio, and settled in Ashville, NC. Now, at the age of 64, he hosts a daily radio show as Tim “T-Bone” Arem.

“All along,” he says, “I’ve been able to use my education from Alfred University.”

It was an education that almost didn’t happen. In a recent interview, Arem recalled a period in his undergraduate life when he nearly left college for good.

“I dropped out for a semester. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

Luck or fate intervened when his academic advisor referred him to a faculty member in the Education Department, which in those days was part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Arem settled into his work as an education major, hunkered down and finished his undergraduate work, which included a minor in psychology. Later, in Tucson, he even returned to school and earned his Master’s degree in education.

He credits Alfred University with steering him in a productive direction.

“Going to a liberal arts school, like Alfred, was so important. The Education Department was really small, which meant that you could get one-on-one time with a teacher. Then later, as Ronald McDonald, I was able to work with children more effectively because I had a four-year degree from Alfred.”

Other recollections of Alfred University in the early 1970’s include serving as co-chairman of the student activity board. “We had a budget of $25,000, and we brought in Patti Label and the group Isis. I signed ‘em. I took a ceramics class and learned how to make pottery; that was neat. And I made some cool friends along the way.”

In Ashville, where he settled in 2002, Arem maintains his radio persona of “T-Bone” and oversees the Ashville Father’s Day Festival and the Ashville International Children’s Festival. He publishes a newspaper for children: Ashville Flyer, and he has created a new persona called Radar – a talking radio personality who interviews musical performers.

As a former liberal arts undergraduate, he says there is an underlying theme in all his myriad gigs: “I like to create things that have not been created before.”

 Tim Arem was recently featured in an article in the online magazine Atlas Obscura.