More than Professors

 I got an interesting and unexpected phone call last night.  Actually it was a voice mail (I never heard the phone ring) from a professor at Bucknell University.  I didn't go to Bucknell (back then I THOUGHT I wanted to be a nurse [what a laugh] and Bucknell did not offer a nursing degree), but my mother did, so did my brother and while my father didn't go either, he considered himself an honorary alum as he and my mother would go back frequently and he was a big supporter of Bucknell athletics.) and the phone call wasn't for me, but I'll get into that whole long story in a minute.  The fact that the phone call was made got me thinking about professors and their relationship with students.

College professor and student relationship are different from the ones you have with teachers while you are in high school.  You are both adults and act as such (or at least you should).  I was never friends with any of my teachers while I was in high school (although I have since then), but college was different.  Roxanne Amico, one of my favorite professors, one I had for several classes, is still a friend. (Upon further reflection, forget the one of, she was my favorite professor period.)   Although we don't see each other often, social media is our friend.  When she had her first child, I attended her baby shower.  (Although that was after I graduated.)  Although she was not my academic advisor, she gave great advice. (I didn't major in theater which was her area of expertise and the department she chaired. However I did MINOR in drama and in hindsight, I should have doubled majored as I was only one class shy of being able to do that.)  I took two independent study courses with her, writing two plays my senior year.  (Plays that are pretty much lost to time...which might be a good thing.)  She was wise; advising me to give up my attempt at writing an experimental avant garde piece and go back to what I did best; comedy.  (Actually what I wrote were more sitcom-y plays.  Maybe I missed my calling.)  She taught me life lessons that I still follow.  She just may be one of the reasons why I write this blog, because she never disparaged my writing when I was younger.  Did I ever say thank you?  If  not, it's never too late...thank you Rox!  (Yes, we called her by her first name!)

While I don't know much about my mother's experiences in college, I do know her time at Bucknell did shape the person she was.  I also knew who her favorite professor was, Hulda Magalhaes.  My mother was a biology major and Professor Magelhaes was a professor of zoology.  I think my mother took every course that she taught; she adored her.  And she, like I, kept in touch with her after graduation.  I do believe that when my brother was attending Bucknell and deciding on a major, it was Professor Magalhaes (who was retired by then), suggested that he NOT major in biology, but minor in it so that he could take all the "fun" biology courses.  (Like marine biology, which is how he ended up on a school sponsored trip that included snorkeling in tropical water.)

Which brings me to yesterday's voice mail message.  The call was made to the shore house phone. Since my dad has been in the hospital/rehab for several months, I have had the landline forwarded to my cell number.  I didn't recognize the number, but I immediately recognized the name, Bill Kenny.  (If he'd said he was Professor William Kenny, it might have taken me longer to figure out who he was.)  Bill is a professor of music at Bucknell.  My brother wasn't a music major, but he was in the band.  (I know he was in marching band and concert band, but I don't know if it was for all 4 years.)  I believe his freshman year was either Bill Kenny's first or second year of teaching at Bucknell.  Not only did he and my brother become close, but my parents, who visited Bucknell every chance they could, also became friendly with Bill and his wife.  Hence the phone call.

(Side note:  I'm not 100% but I think Bill drove six hours round trip to attend my brother's funeral in 2012.)

My mother never missed a reunion at Bucknell; at least until her health made it nearly impossible.  (She would remind me of all the hills of Lewisburg).  Class reunion must have been recently because Bill said he was thinking of my parents and hadn't heard from them in a while.  I didn't hesitate to call him back that night. (Which I think surprised him) I may not "know" him, but I knew how fond my parents (particularly my mother) were of him. I had to tell him of my mother's passing last summer and that my father was not doing well.  He offered his condolences, but more importantly, he graciously shared some memories of my parents.  They were stories that I didn't know and will treasure.

Is there a point to this blog post?  Perhaps it is a tale I should share with my son as he prepares to go off to college. (Only a little over 2 months away!)  When you "click" with a professor or any person in life, hold tight to that connection.  Take the wisdom and advice that is offered and hold it close.  Lessons will not just be learned in the classroom.  Those that you interact with on a college campus may change the trajectory of your life.  Connections should not die with graduation.  Keep in'll be glad you did.  


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