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Speaking of great teachers...

One of my favorite college professors passed away this morning - Dr. Richard Warren. He taught humanities for the college for many years. I had his Introduction to Humanities back in 1988, just out of high school. One of my favorite memories from class is of him doing an impression of "Papa Haydn" telling the story about how Haydn would place LOUD INSTRUMENTS in the middle of quiet sections of his symphonies to wake people up. Dr. Warren would start the story in a quiet voice (the music of the symphony could lull audience members into sleep...), then he would talk really loudly saying "boom boom boom" or some such, then go back to his normal voice to finish the story - all with the happiest expression on his face, marching back and forth pumping his arms and beating the air as if he were playing a drum.

He also told a story about when he and his wife moved down here in the sixties. At a laundrymat there were signs on the machines saying "whites" and "colored," and his wife who had never seen such blatant discrimination pointed to the signs and said "Look, they make you presort your laundry before coming to the shop." I don't know why, but that story really stuck with me.

Finally, I remember loving him because of his views on the Gordon Rule. In Florida we have a law called the Gordon Rule that requires all AA degree seeking students write a minimum of 24,000 words over the course of their degree. Colleges can decide how this is accomplished. When I was a student I had to write 6000 words in each of my English composition classes and 6000 words in each of my humanities classes. Dr. Warren must have thought the same as I still do - if you are adding extra words to your research paper to pad it out, that is not good writing. Conciseness is a virtue in writing. Admittedly, it's one I lack, but I know it's admirable. Anyway, Dr. Warren let us count the words in our class notes in addition to the words in our papers. If we still didn't have the 6000 words, he let us write a word over and over again (Gordon Rule, Gordon Rule, Gordon Rule, Gordon Rule) until you finally reached 6000. It felt rebellious.

He retired ages ago, but just this past year I happened to bump into him at the post office. I got to tell him how fondly I looked back on his class and how much I learned from him. He was really pleased, and he talked at great length about what he'd been up to lately. He was in great spirits, he was being recognized for some sort of award, and he was all smiles. I'm glad that's my last memory and that I got one more chance to see him.

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