“I remember being in an airport with Lillie and flying off to a professional conference the fall of my sophomore year. At the conference center, I met John Hope Franklin and Darlene Clark Hines, both preeminent scholars of African-American history. John Hope Franklin was Lillie’s adviser at the University of Chicago, so she introduced me as one of her advisees and a budding historian. Meeting scholars passionate about the African-American narrative had an indelible impact on me. When I returned to Drew, I majored in everything that Lillie Edwards taught.”
“For Billy, it’s not just about handing out equipment. He cares about us. Billy Hosking exemplifies Drew’s motto to ‘give freely,’ and we should all follow his lead.”
“He’s been doing this for over 30 years while still remaining a humble and loyal person.”
“What is very sophisticated in Catherine’s scholarship—its emphasis on relationality: the idea that every human being, every entity, is really a nexus of relations—is very tangible in her mentorship. She creates a space for people to share their scholarship in a very collegial way. At these meetings, which were a large part of my time at Drew, someone would present their work, and others would respond to it. There was the expectation that we would engage in deep conversation around the work, the idea being that we are always becoming in relation to others. She pushed us to practice this. It’s a skill—a very precious one for a scholar and one I’ve appreciated so much.”
“I went to Penn State because I wanted to play lacrosse at a big school. Second semester, one of my teammates was
killed in a car accident.
“I didn’t deal with it well. I tanked academically, failing out of school. I remember thinking I had failed miserably at this
attempt to become a college-educated professional.
“I thought of Tom Leanos. We were both from Long Valley, New Jersey, and when I was playing high school lacrosse, Tom
was a fixture at our games. He’d always say to players, ‘Hey, if you’re interested, come look at Drew.’
“I called Tom. He was very welcoming and got me an interview. He helped me with my application.
“That totally changed the trajectory of my life. My turnaround was all precipitated by Tom’s responsiveness. If he hadn’t helped, I’d be in a very different place now.”
“I started at Drew in 1967, the same year Perry started teaching. He’s been a part of my life ever since.
“Perry had a way of drawing you into a subject. He had command of the classroom. At the top of my notes, I’d write the quips he’d say to get the class’ attention. The comments would be funny—and they’d help me remember what he was teaching.
“His influence on me lasts until today. And he came to my swearing-in seven years ago. That meant a lot.”
“I often think about sitting with Carlos in his basement office at Smith House. He showed me the doors I could go through. With foreign policy, it’s not always clear where you should head. He helped me navigate what is often the craziest time of life: college and the two or three years after, which in my case, were during the recession. Whenever I called Carlos, he always picked up. That says something about a person. It’s still the same now.”
“I took Introduction to Religion with Jim Pain. At times, he was the most unministerial minister. That’s why I found him so attractive. He had a slight air of mystery about him. It was the way he behaved, as though he had a secret, a bit like the Cheshire cat.
“Jim took me seriously, and I don’t think anyone had ever taken me seriously before. I was one of those people who fell between the cracks. I went to a public high school, and I didn’t try very hard and I didn’t care.
“But Drew made me care, and Jim had a lot to do with it. He gave me a sense of self-worth.”
“Forty years ago, I started out like a lot of people—restless women, a whole raft of them, who needed more in their lives and who wanted to know more—and went back to school. I began with one course Merrill offered on Southern literature and ended up with a PhD in literature, which I’d always wanted. After that, I won a Fulbright to Nepal, where I worked on and off for eight years, and eventually became the president of the Fulbright Association’s board.
“I wouldn’t have done this if Merrill hadn’t insisted. She challenged me to do all this. We started out in a student-professor relationship—I took every course she offered—and then we became research and writing colleagues. Merrill was at the forefront of Willa Cather research, and it just caught on. She must have had at least a half-dozen students publish on Cather, including me.
“She was the best friend I’ve ever had in my life.”
“When I was introduced to Otto as my adviser, he said, ‘I’m Otto Maduro, but I’m not that maduro (mature).’ In time, we became friends, spent holidays together. We were like brothers. “Otto would emphasize that we live in a huge world of six billion people. We are just individuals trying to decipher the truth about our realities—what we contribute is just a minuscule piece. I think he wanted us to keep that in mind so that we’re more humble in our analyses.
“I gave a student of mine one of Otto’s books, Mapas para la Fiesta (Maps for a Party). Otto’s work gave him clarity about my own approach to teaching and life. After he read it, he tweeted, ‘Now I understand Professor Cruz.’”
“Bob was my adviser in the writing program, and I took a bunch of classes with him. I remember writing a terrible experimental short story that had a pond as a protagonist. It was truly awful, but he found something positive in everything.
“His writing course felt like a graduate-level seminar—there was a lot of talent in our class. Bob treated us with respect, and what he taught us, to push for specificity, really stuck with me.”