|LASTING LESSONS Summer 2002|
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.
"In the late 1950s, there were very few female teachers at WU, and no one talked about role models for women. Much later I realized that Elizabeth Schreiber, my beloved French teacher, was my only female teacher at the University. She was passionate about the French language and everything French. She gave her students many opportunities to tap into her passion. On one occasion she hosted a dinner of French cuisine, and we spent the day cooking and talking in French. She encouraged us to go to France, and when we did, she met us there and spent a day with us.
"After graduate school, I taught French at University City [Missouri] High School for several years and supervised student teachers for the University, but after I landed in California, I found my own passion and became a therapist and later an administrator in the county alcohol, drug, and mental health system.
"A few years ago a classmate and I met Mme. Schreiber for lunch. 'Are you keeping up your French?' she asked. I admitted that I was not and explained that I had realized later that my love of the French language and culture had more to do with her and her passion than with my own. While my career had taken another direction, I had incorporated Mme. Schreiber's passion and commitment to a subject at a deeper level. She taught me how a woman can make a place for herself by following her heart and giving it her best. This lesson has served me well."
"'What is Socrates saying here? What is justice? How would you respond? What's the problem with this solution?'
"I had no idea what to expect when I took Introduction to Philosophy in the fall of my freshman year. I was ready to adopt the standard track in preparation for law school. Then this man came bounding in every Monday morning with such energy, bouncing around, posing relentless questions. I think his idea was to infect us with his enthusiasm for philosophy. He succeededfairly soon, I had totally transformed what I wanted to do with my life.
"Now that I try to model my teaching on his, I realize how difficult and exhausting it must have been for him to maintain that level of energy.
"Red [Richard Watson] was no narrow specialist: If he thought a subject philosophically interesting to teach, he went on and taught it. He taught as though he were walking through the subject with us. He made a large class feel like a small discussion group.
"I discovered him as a scholar when I started to write my dissertation. Red had written a seminal book in the area of my dissertation topic, yet he left the door open for more questions to be asked, for deeper probing. We've been in close contact ever since. I rarely write a thing without his checking itnot so much the philosophical content anymore, but Red happens to be a brilliant editor with a whole pack of red pens!
"In academia you think of your adviser as your academic parent, someone there to support and encourage; Red is my academic father."
"Part of what initially drew me to Washington University was Senator Eagleton's national stature. His class, The Common-Law Marriage of Business and Government, was co-taught with Murray Weidenbaum [now the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor]. The class had a reputation among students as being 'two grumpy, old men jawing at each other!' This course took graduate students, business school students, students from all overyou had to apply early to get in.
"Senator Eagleton was extremely dynamic; he had an ability to captivate an audience. Sometimes something Professor Weidenbaum said would fire him up; then, his voice would swell, and he would start hitting his hands together. You would think he was back in the Senate!
"He could deliver a very passionate speech. His was a liberal slant, and as a conservative business student, I drifted more toward the Republican stance. Yet, he managed to be passionate and rational, which really opened my eyes.
"They were both fascinating people, and there was a lot of discussion between them. Professor Weidenbaum would say how proud he was to have been one of the architects of Reaganomics; Senator Eagleton would counter that this was an unmitigated disaster because of spiraling deficits. Weidenbaum would argue that that was because the Democrats had stymied the comprehensive implementation of his plans and so on ... History unfolded before us in the classroom!
"Together they conveyed how important it is to look at the social and economic consequences of political decisions. That's something I still think about."