Monday, November 30, 2009

On why I love being a student

My communication theory professor is old. Probably 70. He is the sweetest man in the world and I want him to be my Grandpa. Today was our last class with him during this residency, though we'll be communicating with him during distance studies. It nearly broke my heart.

He is a man who knows theorists by their first names and silly qualities. "I know in pictures that this man never smiles, but he's hilarious," he'll say. "So-and-so doesn't really wear sunglasses all of the time, though I can see how you think he does." He told us his fanboy story about being recognized by one of his favourite theorists after writing his first book. He shared jokes and comics with us every day to make lectures more interesting.

But today he shared so much more. He told us about his experience attending Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous 1963 "I have a dream" speech. He told us about how exhausting the rallies were all day in the sun. He told us about how the air just changed and the audience was buzzing when Dr. King started talking. He choked back tears as he told us about the tall African-American man beside him who placed his sign on the ground, bent over it and "wept like a baby".

He told us about how he'd never told this story when he was teaching at Berkley or the University of Southern California. He told us that until teaching here, at Royal Roads, he never realized just how important that experience was to communications. His eyes were full of tears as he told us about his wife's cancer and the fact that any group he teaches could be his last.

We were blessed today. We have been blessed to know this incredible man. This man could be my grandparent but his world view is blown so wide open. He was a young, white man working to end racism in America. He was a young man who experienced a life-changing event that he still can't talk about without tears.

We gave him a standing ovation and he patted my shoulder as he passed by me. He gave Teresa and I hugs after class while telling us how much he appreciates his students, and how he hopes that even some of the knowledge he's gained in his life will help us through ours.

Today, I experienced the single greatest event of my academic career.


8 comments:

Emily Jane said...

That's absolutely incredible :)

Single Girl said...

AMAZING. What an incredible story. Teachers like that come along only once in a lifetime...

Mandy said...

I was really hoping you would write about this, it brought tears to my eyes. I think that stories like that, so profound and prolific are meant to be shared. I had a few of those moments in my own academic career. If you can, take a tape recorder or camcorder and record him talking about it one on one. Stories like that should be around as long as they can. Thanks so much for sharing.

Kyla Roma said...

This is just one of those moments that makes you realize what a special place universities are. One of my professors used to say to us that it's one of the few places in life where you get to take a step back and just look around at what's important & reassess.

It looks like that's true for the teachers as well as the students =)

walkingonsunshine18 said...

Wow what an amazing experience. Isn't school wondeful. I wish I could afford to go back to school, because it was the best time ever! :)

Just Fine Just Dandy said...

Wow, that's a very cool story! How incredibly intersting!

mieletcannelle said...

Man. Beautiful - what incredible luck that you got to be there. Not luck.. but sort of. Stunning. xo

Sarah said...

Gorgeous. What a privilege to have had him share that with you. Now I'm all sniffly.