LASTING LESSONS • Spring 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.

Richard H. Brunell, Professor Emeritus of Art

Mike Peters:

"It's difficult to flunk in art, but at the beginning of my junior year, I was getting D's and F's. I was doing extracurricular stuff: the yearbook, Student Life, anything I could do cartoons for! Professor Brunell tried to help: 'You can't get F's in junior year. You can't go on taking summer school. If you don't make it, you will be out!'

"He had a suggestion: 'You're not passing because you're trying to do what everyone else is doing, so why not start doing your cartoons in everything you do: in painting, figure drawing, design—it's worth a try.'

"I was dating the assistant dean's daughter, and I thought: 'I'm never going to see her again.' So I started cartooning in all my classes.

"I'll never forget where I was standing when I got the results that would tell me whether or not I could stay in school. Opening the envelope ... I had never seen letters like this—A's and B's! Right away I called Marian, who would later become my wife: 'Guess what—I'm not going to be thrown out!'

"I last spoke to Professor Brunell in 1993; I had just won the National Cartoon Society Award. I called him to say, 'Thank you, thank you for this!'

"We have no idea how many people we touch, usually by a little action that we don't think will mean anything. Never underestimate the little gesture. The success I've had is partly because I do what I love, but it's also due to someone's saying something other than 'You're flunking!'"

Michael B. Peters, B.F.A. '65, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and creator of Mother Goose and Grimm, syndicated in newspapers nationally.

 


 

Joseph R. Passonneau, Former Dean, School of Architecture

Cynthia Weese:

"I knew Joe really from the very beginning of my association with the School. Even in high school I knew I wanted to be an architect, but I knew nothing of Washington University.

"One August my family and I traveled to St. Louis on vacation and visited the Saint Louis Art Museum. At the bottom of the hill, we saw this institution and then the School of Architecture—after which my father and I went in and met Joe. From that moment he stayed in touch with me and wrote letters encouraging me to come. I assume it was Joe who saw to it that I got the scholarship I needed.

"He was always very helpful. I don't think we talked about mentors in those days, but he was a primary adviser of students. Always positive, he was also realistic, walking a fine line between being encouraging but not giving students false expectations.

"Joe taught Introduction to Architecture to all freshman architecture students—to this day that course is still taught by the dean. He made it extremely stimulating, bringing in people from other areas of the University. He initiated new innovative programs in both architecture and urban design. He attracted talented faculty to permanent positions. And each fall a distinguished visiting professor taught students in their final year. These people were extraordinary, some of the best in the world; Joe created an environment within the School that was truly exciting."

Cynthia Weese, FAIA, B.S.A.S. '62, B.Arch. '65, is dean of WU's School of Architecture and is partner in Weese Langley Weese Architects Ltd.

Editor's note: In December 2000, Joseph Passonneau was awarded a 2000 Presidential Design Award from President Bill Clinton.

 

 


 

Roger D. Chamberlain, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering

Eytan Rodin:

"There's a funny little anecdote that tells how deeply Professor Chamberlain could get into his subject: 'Most of the classrooms have "pull down" chalkboards that give a huge surface area to write equations or whatever on. And in most classes the teacher will run out of space, erase the beginning, and carry on writing. They write from left to right, filling the whole space. Well, one day, Professor Chamberlain was lecturing along, writing fast, and, as he came in full flow to the right-hand side of the board, he bumped into the trash can, briefly looked down, said, "Excuse me," and resumed without even noticing what he had just done!'

"Professor Chamberlain made himself available at all times, unlike in many other classes where the laboratory part is distinct from the classroom component. At the times designated for students to work in the lab, he was almost always there. We felt 'here is someone who really cares!' I'm sure he had other things to do, but this was more important to him. He was making sure that the students got the most out of their studies, making sure they performed to their full potential.

"He could come off as quiet, almost bookish, but when you asked him a question, the extrovert in him was ready to go! He's just a modest, personable guy. I looked at him—someone not that much older than I am—doing well for himself; he was a role model. You could talk to him about anything, and he never distanced himself from the students."

Eytan M. Rodin, B.S. '90, is president of I.Q. Technologies Ltd.