Those Who Have Come and Gone

15 Dec

Last week marked the end of another semester and also marked the retirement of two outstanding individuals.

Through the years, Pace Pope fulfilled many capacities at Cumberland University. However, her greatest role was being herself. She cared for the students – especially the internationals – and was their collegiate mother. Everyone loves Pace, and Cumberland will not be the same without her.

She has held up the world and has held up the university.

She has held up the world and has held up the university.

Pete Peterson taught Biology for a long time and also served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs. He was a tough but fair teacher who sent many students on to graduate school. You haven’t lived until you have hiked a New Mexico trail with Pete.SONY DSC

Their retirement made me think of the other people who have come and gone during my time at Cumberland. Some of them have faded from memory, but others left a distinct impression. It’s strange to see people who you have seen on a daily basis suddenly not be there. As I type this, their faces are popping into my mind. How many have their been? I have no idea. However, there are two that I would like to write about. They were my teachers before they were my colleagues, and they have both passed away.

Dick Henderson was a geologist who worked in the oil industry before making his way to Cumberland. He was a great man who cared about the success of his students in the classroom and in life. I first knew him as a teacher, and two instances stand out.

He took our class on what was my first college field trip. We hopped in a van and headed to the southeast corner of Tennessee. Along the way, he explained the landscape and the rock formations. We went through the town of Cleveland and made our way past the Ocoee River. We also went to Copper Basin. Each time I travel to that area I think about the things that Dr. Henderson told us on the trip.

The other instance involved a test. We had my grandfather’s funeral one day, and Dr. Henderson had a test scheduled for the next day. I showed up to take the test because it was my responsibility. I didn’t do well on the test because my mind had not been on studying. After grading and returning the tests, Dr. Henderson called me to his office and asked what happened. He couldn’t understand why I did that badly. When I explained, he said that he wished he had known. I could have taken the test later. He even offered to make out another test for me.

I didn’t take his offer, but I never forgot the gesture. That day, I had no idea that I would one day be hi s colleague. I also had no idea that I would serve as a pallbearer at Dr. Henderson’s own funeral.

Jim Dressler taught history at Cumberland for three decades. He was an institution. In fact, my first college class was taught by him. He sat on the desk with his feet dangling and rattled on about world history. He never had notes. All he had was a cigarette. Like all of the other students, Dr. Dressler intimidated me. He was tall, strict and didn’t take any crap.

When I started teaching, he still intimidated me. It was probably a combination of things. His knowledge. His stature. A combination of it all. However, I learned that he also cared about the success of the students. He was strict for a reason. He wanted them to stay focused on the goal of graduating. After a while, Dr. Dressler and I became better acquainted a realized that we had a lot in common. We liked the same era of history. We agreed on politics. We both loved Cumberland University and wanted it to thrive. His death was sudden and left a hole in the history department.

There is one thing more about these two men. Of all the people I have worked with, they are the only ones who I never called by their first names. I think that was out of respect for who they were and what they represented. To others, they may have been Dick and Jim. To me, they were and always will be Dr. Henderson and Dr. Dressler.

8 Responses to “Those Who Have Come and Gone”

  1. Teepee12 December 16, 2013 at 00:11 #

    What a nice remembrance. I feel like I know them, almost.

    • Rick December 16, 2013 at 00:40 #

      Thank you

  2. ambercanread December 16, 2013 at 00:28 #

    I didn’t really know Dr. Henderson, but like you said, Dr. Dressler scared the mess out of me! But, he also was hilarious and a lot kinder than I ever would’ve imagined. What a wonderful tribute!

    • Rick December 16, 2013 at 00:41 #

      Thanks. I wish I could lock late students out of class like Dr. Dressler used to do.

      • jcalberta December 16, 2013 at 05:48 #

        I wonder if many teachers realize the far reaching impact they may have on a student? There are many things that I learned – and carried – from the classroom that were not contained in any book.. And some things that I gained – and retained – were gifts of caring and generosity – which I then deemed to pass to others.
        Thank you.

      • Rick December 16, 2013 at 13:56 #

        During the daily grind, it’s hard to see the impact. However, I remember my teachers and what they did for me.

  3. DyingNote December 17, 2013 at 04:25 #

    Very touching Rick. Beautiful!

    • Rick December 17, 2013 at 14:48 #

      Thank you

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