Three Washington University alumni share lessons they learned from their favorite professors.

Leonard S. Green, Professor of Psychology

John Donaldson:

"I planned to declare a political science major when I came to Washington University. Then, in my first semester, I took Introduction to Psychology.

"Superficially, operant conditioning—pigeons pecking keys for food—sounds boring. But Professor Green's teaching style engaged us in such a way that forced us to really grapple with questions of how people behave. As a result, we learned the material in much greater depth. The class was large, but he provoked much discussion. Truth to tell, we mastered two things that semester: behavioral psychology, and how to analyze and think about our world. I not only took two more classes from Professor Green, but chose psychology as one of my majors.

"Although he was funny and engaging, Professor Green was no pushover, which is only one mark of his respect for students. I got three A's from him; each was hard won. I just felt motivated to master the material.

"During my independent study with Professor Green, we didn't just transport pigeons to Skinner boxes; we also met regularly—he involved me intellectually with his experiments.

"What's funny is that even though I have returned to political science, I've tried to emulate Professor Green's teaching style. His sense of engaging students in puzzle-solving inspires me when teaching my discussion sections! He said: 'Our job is not to teach the material but to teach how to think. The development of that process can be applied to any discipline.'"

John Donaldson, A.B. '91, is a doctoral student and teaching assistant in comparative politics at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.



Carl Alfred Moyer (1908-1970), Former Bixby Professor of Surgery and Head, Department of Surgery


Joshua Grossman:

"'If you don't know what's wrong with a patient, ask the patient!' That was a major concept I learned from Dr. Moyer, who was totally oriented toward patient care and teaching. He gave us an intense understanding of the way the body works in health and in disease. He was committed to bringing medical students to patients' bedsides: We were brought into operating rooms, recovery rooms, and the 'burn unit' as it was called—the precursor to what is now the intensive care unit.

"Dr. Moyer was the first to recognize the importance of treating infection in burn patients and the first to use silver nitrate on burns. To this day, I never use Silvadene Cream (which evolved in part from his experience) without reflecting on this pioneering work. It was especially important at that time, because a few years later treatment was needed for burned helicopter pilots being evacuated out of Vietnam.

"He was right on the cutting-edge of infection control. I remember he was against having rugs in medical buildings; it seems a small thing now, but he wanted no rugs, just floors scrubbed military style with sand, water, and soap!

"One night I was sent to a patient's bedside where two doctors were trying unsuccessfully to start her IV. They didn't ask for my help, but because of the training I had received, I didn't have to feel for the veins—I just knew. Dr. Moyer had given me a bedside awareness of fluid replacement. Several days later I received a note from the patient, thanking 'the cocky intern in the argyll sweater who started my IV!'

"Dr. Moyer's teaching and patient care had an intensity of purpose that I carry with me today."


Joshua Grossman, M.D. '65, F.A.C.P. '77, is clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.



Joseph Denis Murphy (1907-1995), Dean, School of Architecture


Edward J. Thias:

"Dean Joseph D. Murphy was a great teacher of design as well as a distinguished architectural designer. Before becoming dean in 1948, Professor Murphy taught design for 14 years. His site scheme for the John M. Olin Library—one of his architectural projects—was masterful. He decided to put numerous floors of the building below ground so that the structure would not be taller and dominate the campus. His contemporary forms and use of the red granite were harmonious with the existing buildings.

"In his lessons to students, he conveyed 'that a building should be a joy to look at, a joy to participate in, and a joy to build it in such a way that it helps project its purposes.' He taught that there was a method of orientation to the site, and a relationship of all elements to each other for the whole project.

"The one thing that Dean Murphy taught that influenced me most was that modern architecture is the result of the relationship of elements that are aesthetic as well as functional.

"After doing projects, such as Barnes Hospital Queeny Tower and the Climatron, with his partner Gene Mackey, he devoted his time to making beautiful pencil drawings and watercolors of architectural subjects. He passed on the lesson to find joy in the beauty of the creation of architecture and art."


Edward J. Thias, B.Arch. '51, is an architect, artist, teacher, and writer. His 550 architectural projects are in five states, and his watercolor paintings are in libraries, museums, and private collections nationwide.