Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
My favorite professor has died. I called him Dr. C. He was a critical part of my life during the '90s.
When I married, I had about a year's worth of college credits. It took me another 20 years to get my BA as we moved around for my ex-husband's education and career. I was of no importance to my husband and allowed myself to be treated as such.
When we settled in one spot in Maryland, I found a college to attend, and I was off to the races to get my degree in English. I came to know Dr. C during my second semester when I took his survey of American literature class. I found him intimidating, but realized quickly that his demands expanded my ability to write a critical essay.
At the end of the semester, he asked me to be one of his graders when classes resumed in the fall. It was the beginning of four semesters working for him. We became closer each semester. My respect for him grew.
I took every class he taught with the exception of English 101, for which I graded quizzes and essays. I'll try here to remember them all: Survey of American Lit, Greek Mythology, American Poetry, 19th Century American Lit, Shakespeare, Milton . . . could there have been something else? I can't remember now.
Dr. C expected his students to use "a close, textual" analysis when writing our essays. It was New Criticism. It served me well. I used the same approach as a newspaper reporter, leaning heavily on quotations in my work with analysis of my own and from experts.
I received my first A+ from Dr. C in the Shakespeare class when I wrote about appearance v. reality in As You Like It. He said I had taught him something. I didn't need my car to get home that day. I floated.
Dr. C praised my clear style and said I had grown as a grader. Sometimes we gossiped a little in his office, chatting about the other professors. He let me into his world––the world of literature and writing and education. We had the kind of relationship I've never had with another man, because it was based on love and respect and learning from each other with no suspicions or agendas.
When I graduated, I planned on continuing my education with a master's degree, but my husband was unemployed and the master's never happened. But I emailed Dr. C to let him know I was a journalist. He replied: I knew you'd find your niche.
Yes, Dr. C has died, but 35 years of teaching provide a legacy of learning by thousands of students. I'll always miss him and our time together.
He was important to me, and I was important to him.
Infinities of love,