Russell H. Ragsdale


Five Days of Gratefulness – Fourth Day

Day Four
1. I am grateful for my chemistry teacher who was wise enough to let me utilize physics in my experiments. I wish I could remember his name but I can still clearly see his intense, happy and energetic face as I look backward into the blurry mists of my long ago days in high school. In my mind I was combining those two disciplines already and he was... able to let me design my own experiments so that I could pursue the way those two work together to make the world all around us. Sometimes minds just need to be let to be curious and adventurous and the high mark he gave me has stuck with me all of my life. I was a bit out of the box for a basic chemistry class but that didn’t seem to bother him any and it was so interesting and fun when he would come over to see what I was working on and offer suggestions from his superior store of the knowledge of chemistry. It left me with a great good feeling about the physical sciences.
2. I am grateful for my high school literature teacher whose name I still well remember. Robert Newton had a great passion for reading and literature and was also wise enough to recognize that I was an unusual student. He did a number of things that were not strictly allowed because he recognized that I loved to write. While other students were laboring away at essays (which I also love) he would let me turn in short stories if they matched with the assignment in some way. He had animated discussions in his class and my interest in literature was starting to take a philosophical turn at that time. I would want to discuss very modern stuff such as Tennessee Williams’ plays while the rest of the class was working on Melville’s Moby Dick. I always tried to keep with the theme but already my vocabulary was far ahead of most of my classmates and that, plus my bringing up material that the rest of the class had only possibly heard of, put me in a position of some considerable suspicion with my peers. He was kind enough to treat me as if all this was perfectly normal and not to make such a big deal of it that the other kids would get jealous or treat me as some kind of weirdo. He great sense of humor kind of wrapped us all in a blanket of happy tolerance. It was the first time I had ever had the courage to be publicly the person that I was in private. I am deeply indebted to him for this.
3. I am grateful for my university literature professor. I first met Christopher Carrol when I was taking one of those survey of world literature courses. It is one of those courses most professors dread because it is a kind of forced march through bits and fragments of things that would make wonderful reading, in entirety, under some other circumstance. Trying to piece all that stuff together kind of makes it almost a history course rather than literature. It is the kind of course that often inspires appalling apathy. Chris, as I came to know him, however filled the classroom with such energy and love for each piece that you would think it was his favorite thing to teach. You couldn’t help but get swept up in the enthusiasm he brought to everything we read. By the end of that class he had helped me get such an enthusiasm for Chaucer that I would eventually take that as the period I would immerse myself in for the rest of my time at the university. He became my friend and stayed so until he died last year. I can’t think of a university professor that has had more impact on my life than Chris Carrol and I will always be grateful to him for the many things I learned because of his influence and the example he lived in every moment of his long and happy life.