For those who haven’t heard, we unexpectedly lost a very talented and respected faculty member on Saturday. Gerry Shapiro, Cather professor of English, died at the age of 61. When I heard the news over the weekend, it made me think about the impact professors have on their students.
When I go out to meet with alumni, I often ask them about
their college experience and which professors and classes changed them or
helped them the most. I hear so many great examples of people like Robert Knoll in English, Carroll McKibbin in political science, Jim Lewis in math, John Janovy in biological
sciences and Rose Holz in women’s and gender studies, just to name a few. In
there, too, is Gerry Shapiro.
Gerry had a way of expanding students’ perspective,
particularly through his Jewish fiction class. He found a way to make the
Jewish experience very real to students who might previously have regarded it
as a very foreign concept.
Whether I look at Gerry, or Robert or any of the others
alumni mention, I see a few common characteristics. These are educators who have
taken innovative approaches to teaching and challenging their students. They
are people who have acted with genuine concern for students and their success.
They have taken students who are pretty smart to begin with and teach them
something those students never would have thought of on their own.
As an educator, I can’t think of a finer legacy to leave or
a more worthy ambition to pursue.
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