Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Loss

While brushing up my final lecture for my spring term course, I recalled, in the back of my mind, an article written before I was born by one of my favourite professors from my undergrad days. Off to Google I went. I found enough of it to add a little note to my lecture, and then decided to Google the prof himself, wondering why we ever lost touch.

Tom was not just my favourite professor, but one who had left an indelible stamp on me. If not for him, I would not be where I am now. I know people say that a lot, but it's fact in this case. I simply would not have a PhD in this particular field had he not been one of my first mentors in the subject. His enthusiasm, joy, off-beat perspective and keen mind opened so many more doors for me than dozens of other, less fiery profs could/had done. He was also kind and forgiving with me when I likely didn't deserve it, and stern with me when I needed it.

His questions still shape my scholarship.

When I was deciding to go on for my MA, he bought me dinner and counseled me, honestly and lovingly, like a colleague and a friend. Then, a while later, when he and I had both left the university where we first met, and we were provinces apart, it was to him that I reached out, via email, wondering if I really had what it took to do a PhD. I received a telephone call immediately. His guidance, approval, voice was important to me, I realized.

He was The Teacher I Wanted To Be.

We drifted a part after that, I admit. I was busy, and so was he, and he wasn't really a Facebook type of guy, I guess. I often thought about him, but rarely took the time to contact him. Once or twice in the five or six years after that, I think. I don't think I received a response the last time I did.

Still, he lived in my mind.

Tonight, upon Googling him, I discovered that Tom died two years ago. Two years. And I never knew. Two years ago, and I feel like it just happened. Because I didn't know.

Around the same time I was becoming a PhD, he was becoming... something else, I suppose. (Not even a PhD is enough to answer some questions, I admit.)

Every major academic thing I have written since then, I have dedicated to him, or acknowledged him in some fashion, and I will continue to do so. When my first academic book is published, it will be in his memory.

To Tom, who was there for me then, and is still, and will be, long after death.

Educating is a powerful calling, and a calling with power.

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