- SANDRA EAGLETON, my Advanced Placement English Teacher, my senior year at Claremont High School, who had also taught English part time at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in my father’s department.
JON, a long-haired, mouthy legend in his own mind.
SE: Jon, would you like to be an English professor like your Dad?
JB: God, no. Anything but.
SE [consternation]: Why not?
JB: I know what it’s like when I write papers for you—beating my brains out the night before it’s due. I do NOT want to spend college like that, trying to think of something to say.
SE [smiling knowingly]: You’d be surprised how many English majors are like that.
JB: I know, but…
* * * * * * * *
Dear Dr. Eagleton,
I know you’re no longer among us, having lost a long battle to cancer some years ago, and I regret that we never reconnected after I found my way to a somewhat different career choice, but an academic one that involved writing papers. Perhaps you saw something I didn’t yet know was there. What I can say is that in most cases I’m done with my papers much further in advance than I seem to be right now. OK, so it’s two nights before, not the night before, but still. I do find myself smiling and thinking of you tonight, though, and of our conversation so many years ago. Thanks for everything you provided us, not least the challenge and attention and modeling of what teaching really could and should be.
And yeah, I’d better get back to my impending local AMS paper now. Wishing you and all with you in the Empyrean every eternal Joy.
Jon (Bellman; Sam’s son)