Roll Call of Memorable Teachers

November 29, 2016 in 1950s-1960s

Writing this e-memoir has made me pleasurably exercise my memory of 50 plus years ago to credit those whose influence contributed to life as I live it today. I gained strength, knowledge, and skills through most of my professors and enjoyed recalling the time I spent with almost each of them. Others whom I enjoyed existed, but I can’t recall all names or initials. I have rated them on a five star basis, with five being the highest. The rating is based on such factors as (1) how much I learned, (2 ) how useful what they taught has been throughout my life, (3) how much I enjoyed their teaching and them, and, finally, and perhaps most importantly, (4) how great I felt about myself after emerging from the time I spent with them.

Again, I am most grateful for the experience of getting to write about them as most are probably not around any longer. They were in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on, but what they imparted, what they shared with me is still alive, and I am sure that they would be proud of that. May they rest in peace as I continue to pass on to others what they did for me.

“…terrified of her…”

***        Dr. V.G…. tall, slender teacher of upper level English who spent a great deal of time running back and forth down McVey Hall after class had started to get materials that she had left in her office.  Dr. VG was a very difficult teacher who was a stickler for grammar in written papers. She favored one particular student, very obviously, and it really  irritated   the remainder of the class. Poor girl, she always had to run as soon as class had ended. Obviously, there was some outside connection.  On my last paper in her class, I received a very good grade with very positive comments though she did not let on when it came my time to discuss and defend what I had written. Gaining access to the paper and reviewing the grade were  pleasant surprises. She was a good teacher from whom I learned quite a bit.  Down through the years, I copied a couple of my returned graded and commented upon papers from her class and used them in my own classes with my students. (U.K).

***      Dr. T…. one of my College of Education professors, constructed an exam from an educational magazine that I had found extremely interesting.  Naïve me gasped when I saw it and said surprisingly–even to myself–“I just read this!” He was soooo taken aback and embarrassed.  When I questioned him about receiving a “B” on the exam, his answer was that I should have done so much better than anyone else in the class because I had been pre-exposed. I accepted that line of reasoning, although I believed I had done a very good job better than the “B.”. I don’t know till this day why he could not have given me an oral or something else. Plus, he should have been proud that I was reading the same professional material as he. And why was he taking the material from a magazine?  I did get an “A” from his class, however, regardless of the “B” on the exam.

***      Dr. T…. had students who were assigned to her humanities class terrified of her. A Caucasian from Vanderbilt University on loan to Fisk, she definitely exhibited a superiority attitude.  Case one in point:  When I first went to Fisk, she was not a teacher that I remembered hearing about from the returnees, nor was she one that I recognized by name from student discussions. The administration assigned almost all sophomores to one big room and then divided them by a roll call among three different teachers.  Guess who got assigned to her class?  I became the luck of the draw, of course.  I had become friends with another transfer (Andrea) from Los Angeles, so wanting to stay together, I motioned excitedly at her across the room to volunteer to come with me. She, excited at the same idea, agreed and volunteered. I noticed all of the other students stared strangely at the two of us. But when they called one student’s name, she fainted (or maybe pretended to faint).  Everyone in the room rushed toward her, and she had to be carried out. After we went to the dining room for lunch, we heard about the repu tation of t he  teacher that was so feared that a student passed out when she heard her name as being in that class.  According to the students, Dr. T. was really prejudiced and held many Fiskites in low esteem. Too late!  Fisk frowned on changing professors. Her students had to buy a stack of paperback books taller than they were, and she graded very harshly. My friend Andrea really struggled in that class and blamed me to the day I left Fisk for excitedly urging her on to get into the class with me.

When I applied to my writing in Dr. T’s class, the pattern which Mrs. Z at UK had taught: “Title, thesis statement, purpose statement, etc.” written on the top of my paper, she inquired in conference as to where I had learned that. When I told her that I was a transfer student from UK, she seemed really interested and asked me whom my teacher had been.  When I told her Ms. Z, she got further interested and told me that she knew Ms. Z and that they had been friends a long time ago.  She gained much respect for me and really helped me from then on out.  I got some of the few good grades on papers from her class  Case in point two: Later on during the semester, she, herself,  became ill in class one day and passed out. When the administrators rushed in to  decide where to take her hurriedly,  and discussed that the nearest place would be Meharry Medical School just right across the street from Fisk,  she rallied up fast and said, “Oh, no,” please take me to Vanderbilt. (Meharry Medical School was a black facility then, and may still be today.)  Fisk students mused about that as a sign of her validated  prejudice. I don’t know quite how to take that, because, after all, part of her work time was spent at Vanderbilt, and she may have had friends there. But her difficult class, various comments she made, sometimes unrealistic grading procedures, emotional distance from the students, etc.were probably almost sure symbols of her prejudice towards blacks. (Fisk U.)

“Eat, Drink, and Be Discreet”

*  Professor P. was described in the very first section of this memoir as the young professor who said to my shock,” Hell, I don’t have to work these damn problems; all I have to do is give them.”  The class was too large, and he never offered any office hours. That class was probably viewed as a stepping stone to him or just a temporary way to receive a salary. (U.K.).

*  Dean R.,was a large man who wore a very prominent nose that for some reason or another I had difficulty ignoring.  He spoke in a monotone and he, too, possessed an “attitude,” probably because he had a double role as both dean and teacher, too.  He taught education.  Having transferred from UK where the classes were large and some teachers hardly knew one was there, I had missed more classes than he liked.  Of course, I was in the dorm studying, but he did not know or care about that; he just wanted student attendance.  He sent word by the other students that I was about to be sent home if I didn’t stop missing class.  Of course, my mom wouldn’t stand for that, and never wanting to disappoint her I wouldn’t,  either, so I started to attend class  (which was not all that interesting or informative,) more regularly (all the time). I never knew why he did not send me a private memo or etc., instead of broadcasting it to the class and sending verbal word by students, some of whom I did not know.  All I can remember is “Dean R said this or Dean R. said that.”  Maybe I stared at him too much. (Fisk U.).

***** Dean G…. Her motto to the young ladies that she hawked to keep in line was “eat, drink, but be discreet.”  And boy did she mean it.  She could be seen monitoring young ladies as she drove around campus and the neighborhood in her car.  She was everywhere, knew everything, and  did she keep everyone in line! Did not mind compelling those could not keep the school conduct codes to pack up and go home to wherever in the world that was. (Fisk U.).

*** Dr. M…. was a dull middle aged advanced poetry teacher whose classroom procedures consisted of his going up and down the aisles over and over again from a particular posed question until it could finally be answered; then, he would start all over again with another question.  The classroom was filled with grad students, and every time he called upon me, I literally froze. I never knew why I was so intimidated by him.  I had a friend who sat across the room and who took innocent pleasure by all of this amusement. We always joked about it after we left class and the uncomfortable feeling was over. Dr.  M. was a really revered professor by the other professors in the department because he had published voluminously. Such consecutive publishing is a rather common event among professors of today, especially in the Department of English, but it was rather rare then. (U.K.)

***** Dr. V.…Not sure about her nationality, if that matters, but she was not an original American Caucasian.  She taught speech, and was my Stagecrafters sponsor, (Stagecrafters were composed of a group of drama buffs who did the campus stage productions and spent much time at The Little Theater where the performances were held. She was an older lady who really knew and practiced her craft.  I really enjoyed her class, but years later regretted not being more forthcoming with her.  She made the mistake of telling us that she graded on improvement.  So, with my big strong voice, I decided to wait to near the end of the class to reveal it.  I murmured almost up to the end, and she kept insisting that I needed to be a bit louder.  So for the final, I bellowed, and she jumped up out of the middle of the classroom where she was sitting and grading and ran up to the stage, red as a beet.  I was a tiny, unsuspecting thing then, unlike now.  She grabbed me and hugged me, and said to the class,“Can you believe this voice came out of this little thing? “and I got the big “A,” of course.  She and her mother (who had to be in excess of 100 years as she, herself, had to be in her 70’s) could be seen frequently, especially on Sundays, walking together around the Fisk University neighborhood area.  A very picturesque pair, indeed, as both had beautiful, snowy white flowing hair. In later life I realized that the situation in hiding the real strength of my voice was a bit deceptive and I truly regretted it. I used her material (that I modified, of course) down through the years until I retired.  She did a great job!  (Fisk U.).

****Dr. B.  another speech teacher, did not have much personality, but he really imparted information that put me light years above other teachers in the different teaching environments in which I found myself.  He gave us the basics of why people talk the way they do and stressed knowing the (“International Phonetic Alphabet.”)  He taught the class how to transcribe, and that was very helpful to me. (U.K.).

*****Mr. S… my second professor of English, was “the bomb” as the students of today characterize teachers  whom they adore, and for whom they  behave and perform well.  He taught me most of the fundamentals of essay writing, made inspiring comments, and graded rationally.  I can’t say enough good things about him;  I have already dealt at length with a description of Mr. S. in earlier parts of the e-memoir. (U.K.).

*****Ms. D… a very young psychology lab teacher from Turkey was perhaps the most attractive to the male students.  The guys in class drooled over her. What I remember most about her was the delayed auditory feedback experiment she had me participate in before the whole class.  She put the big earphones on me and had me read. The southern drawl that came out entertained the whole class.  She really enjoyed it, also. Before that experiment I was totally unaware of my drawl, a trait that my mother had noted about others. She was just one more professor that I received a hug from, when hugging college students was a rare and almost non existent occurrence in college.  I wish I had a video tape of my performance on that exercise today. (U.K.).

**** Biology and Botany were taught by a team of teachers—all male–in a large auditorium-type room. with a runway type section that divided the classroom. One of the teachers, a tall graying professor always insisted as he walked to the edge of the end of the runway that the end of the world was on its way because “man’s head was getting too big.” (”U.K.}

** Dr. B., an older German instructor, had no personality at all.  He never smiled, joked, or even acted like he was enjoying what he did.  He was my music appreciation teacher. All he did was play compositions on the stereo and point his pencil at the different movement changes.  Not especially a classical music enthusiast, I can’t believe, however, I remember Verdi’s Aida, the different movements etc., and have some minimal memory of the other composers and their operas. I am still fond of Korsakov’s rendition of Sherazade and even answered a question that a traveling graduate student of music couldn’t remember the answer to in church, recently. Therefore, I must have learned and remembered a few things from his class down through the years. In addition, I shall never forget the day that  I still had the thin, classroom score booklet open while he was involved in  a rare instance of explaining something, when he walked up to me and snatched the booklet from my hands as a symbol for me to pay better  attention.  I instinctively stood up and snatched the book back to the amazement and subsequent amazement of all in the class including myself and him.  All of us were supposed to be sitting quietly listening.  I really scared myself, but I had never had anyone treat me that crudely. (Fisk U.)

“Milk is only Good for Baby Cows”

***** Dr. Z…. again, a springboard teacher for the concept of organization in writing has been mentioned three times before, once as being a friend of Dr. T. at Fisk, another as prompting me to convert from the high school English notion of being mostly about the nouns, pronouns, etc. of grammar and the reading of literature,( sans any writing) to primarily writing.  I received my first three “bad grades” in writing at the University in her class.  She acknowledged my improvement after that by gently and gradually “upping” my scores.   She had shocked me into knowing that I must work harder, since I had not ever made anything below an “A” in high school English.  She had us writing purpose statements as well as thesis and audience statements long before KERA.  She also made sure that we had an at least three part sentence (not topic) outline to accompany each paper. Her methods and mild temperament served me well throughout my entire undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate years. I became a master of successful structure which was later on  complemented by Mr. S’s emphasis on logic and argumentation. Dr. Z was a pleasant middle aged lady who always talked about the advent of television as a “wasteland.”  She always reminded us that she did not have one in her home. (UK).

***** Dr. H…. my health teacher, was a slight, wiry man who was against virtually everything.  He was probably in his mid 50’s when I had him.  He was a very entertaining teacher who insisted that a prevailing myth that whoever ate fish and meat together would die was all wrong.  He also insisted that cow’s milk was only good for baby cows. After all of these years, and all of the PDR’s, Merck Health manuals, the Internet, etc., I still have that text and still consult it from time to time.  It is what I start out with first, even today,  in trying to determine what is wrong—health wise—when a member of my family is ill.  I have included its cover.

**** Dr. I…. one of my history teachers, was a jolly old St. Nicholas like person who licked his lips and winked when he had made a great personal point. I have mentioned him earlier. Dr. I was a good teacher, a good lecturer. He was fair and likeable.  I did well in his class.

**** Dr.C.. was my Individual Differences psychology instructor.  I have mentioned him before also as having been somewhat prejudiced and was always talking about race and inferiority as far as I.Q. was concerned.  He was the one I blurted out in class to in defense of such notions as characterizing people by I.Q.  He was probably responsible for my taking quite a few classes in giftedness as a graduate student.  He would probably be shocked to learn that one of my own children (though both gifted and talented), one is a MENSAN who once belonged to TRIPLE NINE,  to the Kentuckiana Mensan Society as early as high school, and received their scholarship. She started an online black Mensan Society in college which included several other black Mensans. (Just making a point that is needed in today’s society.) Surprisingly there is much discussion like those of Dr. C.still. One only needs view  Quora Digest online or Stefan Molyneux on YouTube or read such authors as Charles Murray, Arthur Jensen, or Richard Herrnstein to see how ingrained those ideas are today.

*** Dr. P…. was another one of my psychology teachers from whom I Iearned much and enjoyed tremendously in so doing. A blustery, entertaining teacher, he was all about hypnosis.  One hilarious incident in his class occurred when he looked t the back of the room to see one young man sitting exceptionally still.  Dr. P. told us all that the student was in a state of hypnosis, and that it had happened because of the necktie that he (Dr. P.), was wearing.  So, he rushed to the back of the classroom where the student was seated and startled him in doing so only to discover that the student had dozed off to sleep. The student jumped, and the class roared.

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