teachable

I don’t have a category for this post. It’s a sad morning, learning that a member of the faculty has passed away.

This professor was among the first I came to know and respect as a colleague on campus. Among my earliest challenges was accepting responsibility for a classroom renovation gone awry. The project was abandoned by an outgoing director who burned some bridges in his departure. It turned out we needed to do a lot more than build an innovative classroom. We needed to build relationships and consensus, too.

The project required partnering with four disparate academic departments. They inhabited the same building but were often at odds. The chairs, in particular, were strong personalities, not inclined to concede the point. Any point. She was no exception. My attitude toward her, as a colleague to learn from, set a tone of respect that favorably impacted others’ attitudes within my department. Meanwhile, she effectively schooled me in how the place worked and how to get the work done. I’ll remain ever grateful.

I couldn’t know when I started out that that project would prove foundational in establishing myself as a leader and collaborator, two critical attributes for my work. A lot of good things followed — as they say, success begets success. I couldn’t know that my interactions with this professor would be minimal beyond that project. Our paths seldom crossed, and never as significantly, but we shared genuine warmth and respect thereafter. I couldn’t know that her life would be tragically cut short by illness. I only knew that I had much to learn and she had something to teach me.

~René Morley

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