I attended Lane Community College after high school, earning an Associates of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree (thereby satisfying all undergrad requirements at a four-year university). While there, one of the many required courses I took was Writing 121. My professor turned out to be not only a great teacher … but also a life-long friend.
I loved his teaching style and through him, I was introduced to a genre of literature to which I had not been previously exposed. I thereby took another course he taught .. Black American Literature. Later, when I took another writing course (taught by someone else, sadly), I was inspired to write an anecdote about him:
“Good afternoon,” were the only words he said as he walked into the room, removed his leather hat, and took his place behind the podium. His strong, husky voice enraptured the class and held the attention of us all. The room was small, seating maybe twenty-five students. The desks were tightly arranged in a semi-circle around the podium and the man who would soon become an inspiration to me.
He preached the power of words and advised us to be skeptical of the things we had always taken fro granted and to question that which we are taught. He would proudly tell us stories of his childhood and of the many adventures he had experienced in his life. He could make us laugh and then within a moment, stare in shock and surprise.
He challenged conventional Western society, dared each of us to open doors to new worlds. I began to indulge in the literature of African American writers. Seeing society through their eyes changed me … I became more aware.
The more I got to know him, the more I realized that he wasn’t as intimidating as I had initially expected. It was clear to me that he was a man to be taken seriously and one who could teach me a lot about myself, life, and the world around me. He has become a great friend and one I will cherish always.
His wisdom and courage to fight ignorance continues to burn through me. My hope is that I too, will become an inspiration to young minds. To challenge them to experience life from new perspectives.”
After I transferred to Oregon State, I would drive down to visit him on occasion during his office hours. He continued to be a mentor and confidant. As the years progressed, our exchanges dwindled to the annual Christmas card until eventually we lost contact. I would think of him often – wishing I could reach out and reconnect. My mom shared with me that she had read of his retirement. I didn’t know how to find him.
I looked for him through Facebook .. and to my delight, found his son .. who helped to reconnect us. To my surprise and chagrin, he lives not far from me – so we made plans to drive down this past weekend.
It was such a delight to see him and his wife again. They gave us a tour of the city … shared with us stories of their children and grandchildren. They took us out to lunch whereby I was able to personally thank his son for his role in helping me to connect again. It was indeed a wonderful day. Sadly, though, I was so engaged in conversation, I didn’t think to take pictures of us together despite having a camera available. I’m still kicking myself for that … however, I’ll never forget the image of the two of them standing in their driveway with their arms around one another as we drove away that evening.