Sure, we learned lots of things at college. Our minds were stuffed with facts about history, science, and literature. The skills, methods, and habits needed to be a successful nurse, teacher, or businessman were drilled into us. Some of it stuck, and some was probably forgotten. But other lessons were learned at the College of Steubenville. Not the material that appeared on our exams, but lessons that helped us later on, as we struggled to pass the various tests of life. Because the best profs teach us not just from their lecture notes or textbooks, but from casual conversation after class, from the ways they cared about their students, and from the example of the lives they led. Several alumni spoke to The Baronette about what they really learned at college. In addition, a few of your old profs let us know that this kind of learning is a two-way street.
Jessie (Hawk ’71) McMenamin is a recently retired history teacher in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. It wouldn’t be hard to guess that her role models were Doctors Carrigg, Boyde, and Georges. But what she learned from them was more than reams of historical knowledge. It was an attitude that she vowed to adopt as a teacher: “It was their sense of enthusiasm—they just overflowed with it. And that they took a personal interest in each of their students. They were very approachable, real human beings…you felt that they cared about you. I tried to emulate that.”
John Kowalski ’74, now a social worker in Luzerne, Pennsylvania, learned lessons about life that strengthened him a few years later, when he lost his eyesight and faced the possible loss of his job as a result. “John Korzi, a prince of a man and chairman of the Psychology Department, challenged us to truly know ourselves, to know what makes us who we are,” Kowalski says. Without this self-awareness he would not have had the confidence to resist employers who didn’t believe he could do his job while blind and tried to pressure him to quit. He credits Korzi for being not only an instructor, but also a friend and mentor. Kowalski kept his job and went on to establish a program to help homeless teens in Russia.
Bob Andrews ’68 credits Dr. John Carrigg’s lectures for his recent success in preliminary regional tryouts for the Jeopardy! television program. But he also recalls a different kind of knowledge he took from observing the courage of two profs with severe disabilities, biology chairman Dr. Paul Stokely, and math professor Dr. McLean: “It was inspiring. They overcame tremendous difficulties. After the initial ‘wow,’ we no longer thought of them as disabled. We didn’t realize how hard it really was for them.”
Teachers can also learn from their students. Biology professor Ed Bessler was moved by the kindness and camaraderie he received at Steubenville from the very start: “If you had a need at home they would come to your aid—splitting wood, moving rocks…I was often invited to hunt or fish on property owned by student’s families. They were always willing to help you with their talents and resources.”
Dr. Richard Curry, former Spanish professor and now director of Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Hispanic Studies at Texas A&M, has this to say: “As a very young assistant professor…I learned my craft in a supportive environment…and equally as important [as fellow faculty] are the students whom I had the privilege to have in class…though it was long ago, those students have not been forgotten, and they should know that they are a part of the teacher and researcher I am today…they are all individuals who impacted me and my professional life.”
Your turn: What did you really learn here? Send replies to FranciscanMagazine@Franciscan.edu, and we will share online or in Franciscan Magazine (submissions subject to editing).
Originally published in the Autumn 2007 Baronette newsletter.