LASTING LESSONS • Fall 2001
Washington University's superb teachers have changed the lives of the students who have learned from them. Here, three alumni describe faculty whose lessons will last a lifetime.

Erwin Hoelscher (1920-1977), Professor of Mechanical Engineering

William Lambros:

"Erwin Hoelscher had excellent teaching skills. He could get down to the student's level and explain just about anything without causing confusion.

"Hoelscher was down-to-earth and applied real-world experience to his teaching. He had worked in industry in the areas of thermodynamics and applied heat transfer. By using anecdotes about his work in the field, he made the curriculum true-to-life. This was a big advantage to having him as a teacher.

"His tests stressed the importance of the process of finding a solution rather than just the numeric answer.

"He also had great counseling skills. He was not my adviser, but because I took at least four classes in thermo and applied heat transfer from him, I got to know him really well. He could tell you what course would be good to take—what would be useful when you got out of school. For example, he recommended Environmental Control Systems, which I recently used in my job to figure if military personnel find the interior of a Humvee shelter intolerable when the heat rises from using electronic equipment.

"What I learned from Professor Hoelscher has particularly helped me with my avocation—racing cars. I like working on automotive engines; in fact, I build automotive race engines in addition to my regular work. Using the basics of thermodynamics and applied heat transfer that I learned from Hoelscher, I build race engines with more horsepower."

 

William Lambros, B.S. '76 (mechanical engineering), is a senior engineering specialist for Systems & Electronics Inc.

 


 

Nina Cox Davis, Associate Professor of Spanish

Thom D. Chesney:

"Like so many of my classmates, I entered college certain of my career path and how I would fulfill it. Three semesters in, however, I'd gone from pre-med to chemical engineering to undecided. After I explained my predicament to my parents, I looked back on the classes I'd taken since the ninth grade and noticed a single thread: Spanish.

"So, I somewhat cavalierly declared a Spanish major and was assigned to Professor Davis for advising. At our first meeting, she asked why I had chosen the major. I could only answer that I'd been studying it for so long that it seemed the 'natural thing to do.'

"She wondered if I had an interest in teaching, translating, and foreign service; still, I could only answer that I wasn't sure. I felt silly, but I remember her patience and encouragement and the first of many invaluable pieces of advice that she would offer me over the next few years: 'Knowing a second language will never hurt you; more likely, you'll be surprised at how often it will be a blessing.'

"I took several courses from her and her talented colleagues, and when I asked Professor Davis to write recommendation letters to support my applications for graduate study in English, she never once seemed let down or perplexed by my decision. She somehow knew then what I do now.

"Today, I am an English professor on a university campus where a quarter or more of the students in my classes speak Spanish as their native language and English as their second or third. Not a day goes by that I do not spontaneously engage in the language, literature, and culture of my first degree.

"Teacher, adviser, visionary—could I have had a better role model?"

Thom D. Chesney, A.B. '88, is an assistant professor of English at Texas Wesleyan University.

 

 


Annelise Mertz, Professor Emerita of Dance

Michael Hoeye:

"After 30 years I still cannot smell a chlorinated swimming pool without thinking of the old dance studio at Francis Field House. That is where I met Annelise Mertz and had my life forever changed.

"It was an odd little room with mirrors on one side and thick stone walls on the other. The swimming pool was below it. From the narrow windows you could see the tops of trees and the roof of the ROTC building. It was an unexpected setting for a transformation. But then Annelise is seldom what you expect.

"She is after all a magician. In that little studio, time and space obeyed her commands. Colors sprang from light. Sounds flowed from silence. Shapeless young men and women assumed impossible new forms, moved in rhythm, in relationship, and in wonder. We stretched. We watched. We exploded with energy and daring.

"Annelise revealed for us a hidden syntax of events. She unveiled an architecture of motion. She invested human action with significance. She tutored us in discipline and spontaneity. She opened eyes and unleashed bodies. She was patient and impatient, exalting and exasperating. She pushed at our horizons. She hounded us into growth.

"She changed us, and she taught us to dance!

"She has been my teacher, my choreographer, my critic, my colleague, my mentor, and my friend. She has been and will always be for me simply irreplaceable, and not so simply, Annelise."

Michael Hoeye, A.B. '69, guest instructor '75, is a novelist and author of Time Stops for No Mouse, which was recently voted one of the Top 10 children's books by the American Booksellers Association.