Wednesday, September 16, 2009

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

The other day a friend and I were talking about political parties and how we both tended to take on the party of our parents, until we suddenly grew up and discovered we had minds of our own and could change parties if we wanted to.

I told her that although I didn’t change my voter registration from Republican to Democrat until close to the mid ‘70s, my outlook on things had begun changing from the courses I had taken from Dr. David Dressler at Long Beach State College in 1959. By then I had married, had three children, and had begun experiencing life as an adult. Having taken a few years away from schooling to have babies, I entered in my junior year and was lucky enough to sit in some courses that Dr. Dressler taught. This man had worked in Washington DC in the Roosevelt administration and he brought experiences and insights into his courses that for me was like having light-bulbs go off in my brain. He gave blue-book tests and upon reading them he knew whether or not you “got it.” Next to a course in advanced statistics, his courses were the most difficult and most enlightening I ever took.

Down the road a few years I was doing some housecleaning one day, going through boxes to see if I really needed to keep all the junk I found in them. Lo, I came upon an old blue book test that I took in one of Dressler’s classes. On the front cover was a number – probably where I sat on the bell-curve, a note under it that said, “Aside from anything else, it is a pleasure to read a literate paper,” and then a big “D.” When I saw that I laughed myself silly. I had no recollection of that test, but to find such a nice sentiment written on a paper that obviously got a “D” – well, it just tickled my funnybone. I showed it around to my friends and told them the story of Dr. Dressler, and told them I wasn’t surprised that I got a “D” because he really was making me think and reach and in spite of doing so poorly, I had learned so much.

I tossed the blue book on the table to show my husband when he came home. Later I walked past it again and picked it up, this time noting on the back cover, in my own handwriting a list of numbers. I don’t remember specifically what they were – but it was a grade range: numbers between xxx and xxx were an “A,” between xxx an xxx were a “B,” etc. I looked again at the front of the book, noted the number at the top, and then looked on the back to see where it fell. It, in fact, was an “A.” And then it occurred to me: that “D” on the front was Dr. Dressler’s initial, right at the bottom of what he wrote. I had another go-round with the laughter and of course had to run back to my friends and share it with them.

I have never forgotten Dr. Dressler. It was because of him that I eventually changed from my parent’s political party to one that I believed in with all my heart and moreover, that I knew exactly why I believed in it. There have been a few people in my life who have been very special; there have been a few who have given me a good boost along the way. I remember Dr. Dressler once saying to our class that he didn’t teach because he loved teaching; he taught because having the job enabled him to do what he most wanted to do: write. But he truly was a good teacher, and although I had other good teachers, both in school and on various jobs, I’d have to put him as #1 on the list of people who impacted my life.

1 comment:

Allen McLean said...

Yes, Dr. Dressler was a great professor. I, too, benefited from his insights and vision.