Monday, May 15, 2006

Academic Character

We had fun going to university. It was a huge struggle with small children and limited resources, but we were also doing what we wanted to do and studying things we enjoyed. So I can't leave this time without a small tribute to the professors we had.

We had a mutual favorite - a medieval history professor we both took. In Kirk's final semester we both signed up for his class and arranged that only I should actually attend (I take copious notes unlike the illegible three lines of miniscule scratching Kirk produced) just so we could get in as many classes with this guy as possible. He was viewed with a certain awe by the rest of the history department. There was a story going around that soon after he was hired on, a colleague spotted him avidly reading in the library - rapidly turning the pages and completely engrossed. He came up behind to see what book could be so enticing, to find this prof speeding happily through a medieval latin text.

He would show up for class each day in a rumpled collared shirt with the tails coming out, hair everywhich way, and a Mr. Rogers zip-up cardigan. This last he would carefully remove, and neatly fold over the back of his desk chair. Once he looked up and gave us a charming smile 'I have to do this for my wife; she likes me to be tidy.' His finals were a grueling marathon, completely exhausting but exhilarating. I learned enormous amounts from him, and will always admire him. To me he embodies acadmic integrity.

But every campus has a character as well, and ours was the Classical history professor. This is the guy who wore a sumo-wrestler's wrap (for reference see here, but be warned it is not for the faint of heart) to jog in - he weighed about 150lb soaking wet with boots on - and was arrested for indecent exposure. He successfully argued that he was wearing recognized athletic gear, and was actually given a letter of apology from the police chief which he proudly carried around. He had to give up the practice though; he kept getting beaten up.

My favorite story was told by his wife, my latin teacher. They loved to play croquet and had set up a croquet lawn in their front yard. Somewhere they had learned that Leon Trotsky was also an avid croquet player, and the thought of this rabid revolutionist playing a staid, Victorian lawn game tickled them so much they put up a large sign: Leon Trotsky Memorial Croquet Lawn.

On July 4th, because he is this guy, they were flying a large British flag on their porch. A truck came to a screetching halt, disgorged an irate driver who stormed up to the porch, ripped down the flag, and threw it on the lawn. The guy was large, and clearly drunk, so they decided to be discreet and just took down his license plate number. The next day they managed to track the man down and knocked on his apartment door. As soon as he saw who it was, he burst out - 'Oh man, I'm so glad you found me. I'm so sorry about that; I was drunk and it just made me mad you know? I wanted to call you and everything and make it right. I tried to look you up and apologize, but I couldn't find Leon Trotsky in the phone book.'

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