Friday, December 16, 2011

In Memorium

It always amazes me how difficult it can be for me to write when I am sad about something.  This week, two people who've influence my life passed away. 

The first person, Dr. Valerie French, was a professor of ancient Mediterranean history, and simply one of the nicest and most caring individuals I've ever met.  She convinced me to take a chance at teaching an introductory history course with her, even though she knew that I was hesitant to teach in the classroom (I wanted to focus on public history).  I am glad she convinced me to teach, because the experience helped me to discover the natural teacher within.  Dr. French was a fierce advocate for students, undergraduate or graduate.  I am so glad that I had an opportunity to know her, work with her, and learn from her (the art of teaching).

The second person, Christopher Hitchens, was a writer who wrote for Vanity Fair and Slate, to name a few places.  And because Washington can sometimes seem very small, I occasionally would see Hitchens out and about in the city.  I always read his column first, when my Vanity Fair arrived.  I loved that he simply would not suffer fools, and used his pen like a weapon when roused.  I often wondered what he would have been like as a Rhetoric professor, though I am sure he would have been brutal (and likely be considered the professor who really taught people both how to think and write).  I will miss reading his commentary, and in a way, I wish that he could give us just one final essay, now that he really knows what's awaits us upon death.

UPDATE:  12.18.11
I wanted to add an important update to my comment regarding Christopher Hitchens.  As I read Glenn Greenwald's comment on Hitchens' death, I am glad that he reminded me of the things, the many things, that Hitchens wrote that I disagreed with fundamentally, particularly regarding the lead-up to, and execution of the Iraq War by the Bush administration.  I will admit that I agree fully with Greenwald's point about Hitchens' increasingly disturbing (to me) views throughout that conflict.  I was also reminded of something that I promised myself I wouldn't do:  put too much faith in an individual in the world of politics.  I'm still learning my lesson.  Please check out Greenwald's post.  It is well worth the read.


Priya said...

I didn't know Valerie passed away. She was the chair of the department my first year at AU. Thanks for the information.

Anonymous said...

How lovely, whomever you are... Valerie's daughter here, and we are overwhelmed by the good thoughts coming our way, and so happy that Valerie's essential amazingness shone through to so many.

Would LOVE to know who is the author!