You never can tell

Barbara Bradley Hagerty had a commentary on NPR last night about one of her professors who recently died, and her acquaintance with him over the years after she graduated.  Fred Stocking was a legendary Shakespeare scholar at Williams College; he died in July at the age of 94, 29 years after his retirement.  Just listen, or read here.  Pass the tissues!

Most of our students don’t care that much about our classes–and that’s probably the natural order of things.  But you never know how or why you might be important to a student.  This commentary is a really nice illustration of why it’s important to care about doing our jobs well, and to be alert to that shy student at the back of the room who hangs out around to eavesdrop on other students’ questions after class, or to the student who affects diffidence in class but whose papers show real insight and effort.  As many commenters noted yesterday–you never know who you might inspire or what a student might do with what you’ve given hir.

0 thoughts on “You never can tell

  1. A good one. And so not-schmaltzed-up, like Tuesdays with Morrie. Some things work better in short-form. I’m not sure I’ll be so philosophical about the “horizontal” time part of the process, assuming it IS a part of the process. Or the trade-offs. They’ll pry my cold dread hands off my driver’s license when, well, I guess the way I finally did with my father. But they can take my Turnpike, PLEASE, and I’ll stick to the local back roads. I don’t have any discipular (?) correspondents yet. But it’s blowaway-nice to have an anonymous student not only get, but articulate, a point that you’ve been making to classes for years, without a hint of cognition before yesterday, when it actually happened! TR is NSFW today? Good thing I don’t call this stuff “work!”


  2. I agree– on Tuesday night a former student of mine died in a car accident. I knew her well — but, our meeting was accidental and in my class.

    She was a former stripper — and dyslexic. She felt she had a lot to prove, and my class was her first try at returning to college.

    She bloomed — and impacted many lives before she was killed. I’m very glad I got to know her — even though it hurts to have lost her.


  3. De-lurking just to say that while I missed out on having him as a professor at Williams, Fred Stocking and his wife were so involved with the community still that I saw him frequently at music and art events. He came to my senior voice recital and wrote an impossibly sweet card to me afterwards, even though I wasn’t one of these former students he obviously touched so deeply.

    (And in other news, as an avid reader but first-time commenter I wanted to say how much I always appreciate your blog!)


  4. Thanks, Emily–Stocking just seemed like he’d be one of those guys who stays very involved in the community. I suppose he’s one of the last of an older generation of faculty there who lived in or near Williamstown. I get the impression that a lot of faculty commute from cities–for understandable reasons, but those decisions will change the nature of Williams.


  5. Thanks for the tip. I have been starved for NPR since moving to Atlanta. They have two stations here, but they play a lot of jazz. Jazz, for those of you may not be familiar with the genre, is what you get when you push a Muzak combo down the stairs. An excellent tribute.



  6. This is an impossibly sweet story. To think of students as legacies, as fragments of our own biographies, is to assume that this all adds up to something, or that our work in the classroom, on the page, and now on the gently glowing screen raises the earth, lays foundations, and supports new walls. As my university’s budget implodes, I wonder if the same will be true in the future. Williams, of course, is not America.


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