My favorite teachers: Brewster Peasley, Louie Doll, Gerry Faverman and Bud Meyer
December 14, 2011
I think some of the most powerful people in the world are teachers. The good ones know where to find the switch in a student's head to turn on the desire to learn and they make learning exciting.
It was that way for me as I went through grade school and high school, then our community college and then the university. My grades didn't always reflect the quanity and quality of what I learned and my desire to learn more. I had four teachers throughout my academic career who really knew how to push my learning buttons.
They left an indelible mark on who I am today, what interests me and my curiosity about a wide-variety of things.
There's one I owe my career to and that is my high school journalism teacher Brewster Peasley. I took his class in place of regular English where you learn literature and grammar. It was a pure gamble. I never liked reading fiction and I was never very good at trying to figure out symbols in a story and what they meant. I still don't.
But my journalism class was different. I could see that from the first class where Mr. Peasley talked about how he had been involved in some pretty important stuff during the Eisenhower years. That got my attention. My memory of his story that day is a little hazy, but he told about how he played a role in the Republican National Convention in Chicago that nominated Ike. At first blush, I was really impressed. Then he shared how he had intentionally mislead us. He didn't lie, but he didn't tell the whole story.
Journalism opened the world to me. As a reporter, I could learn about anything about anybody on any given day and that turned me on. I found a career. Until then I said I wanted to be a lawyer. I don't know if I had the intellectual firepower to be an attorney. Without that class, I'd probably still be living in the small northern Michigan town where I was born and raised.
Dr. Louis Doll was a history professor at the community college that I attended. He was tall, tolerably arrogant and had a passion for going back to original documents in history. But, he also had an insatiable desire to debunk the Bible. Students had to buy a paper he wrote showing that God's Word was nothing more than myth. Some of my fellow students were really changed. I just got more stubborn in my beliefs.
Another professor at my community college was Dr. Gerry Faverman. I took a Russian history class from him. He was a huge man, had an imposing voice and seemed to have the ability to recall passages from any of thousands of his favorite books.
He had a booming voice that matched his provocative style. I'd read through an extra armful of books just to prove him wrong. And then I realized what he was doing. He was helping me think and explore stuff that really interested me. Back then that was politics, particularly as it related to the old Soviet Union. Our paths crossed again in Lansing where I spent most of my working career.
I owe a lot to Dr. Bud Myer who taught at the journalism school at Michigan State. I was part of a regular line-up of students outside his office door who waited a couple hours or more just to talk to him. I took every class he taught. He helped me take a person or an issue and lift it up and look at it from all sides. I always wanted to learn more as a result of his class.
He the reason that I have the question "so what" burned in my mind. After his class, I could never read or hear anything without asking, so what?
A couple of years ago, we went to an Easter Service where the title of the sermon was "The Easter Story: So what?" That made me listen and it made me think of Bud.
There were other teachers who impressed me, but it was these four who really left their stamp on me and who I am today.