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Thursday, May 05, 2005

End of year goodbyes

Saying "good-bye" is hard to do. Some people won't say it. Working as a college professor, where every end of semester means the end of some relationships, is probably no different than, say, being a librarian or a truck driver, but I've never been either of them, and it seems like there are a lot of goodbyes that go with this job. I check several blogs by students, and one by an employee, of my university, and most of them are writing about the emotional difficulties of ending a year, or their college years.

Looking back, I remember a large number of events, and people, fondly. Not enough--I know I've forgotten a lot, based on what other people remember that I don't.

I arrived on the campus on September 3, 1964. I had never been within 500 or more miles of the place before I showed up. (We interview candidates now!) Claude Rickman, now deceased (as are almost all of my co-workers from my first year) was the Academic Dean, and, I am sure, eager to see exactly who it was that he had signed up. He came to my residence and told me that another faculty member, the late Marling Elliott, had a rare flower that he was sure I would want to see. I went to see it, and Dr. Rickman got to talk to another rare flower, as we went to see the one with roots. I wonder what he thought? Too late to ask him. (I don't normally mention the names of living people in this blog, unless they are public figures, or have posted their names themselves.)

I always went to chapel when on campus. I wasn't always on campus. I got sick a few times. I had some appointments, but I always went when I wasn't away, with one exception. In my first year, some students and I were doing some experiments with rabbits. One of them didn't survive the experiment, for some reason--I hope we weren't cruel to it, I'm much more sensitive to that now than then. So someone, most likely the one who is now a funeral director, suggested that we dissect the rabbit. So we did, and the dissection took us through the chapel period. I had never dissected one, and they hadn't either. It was a most interesting experience.

We weren't accredited when I first came, and we weren't very big. Physical education was one of the areas that we couldn't do as much with as we'd like to have. We did have athletic activities, for those interested. They included football, basketball, and softball. There was a field. There was no gym. A psychology student graduated, and was hired to teach physical education. I don't remember who did it before he did. He was resourceful, and he had to be. I knew, because I attended his physical education classes--I wanted the activity. It also helped me to know the students outside of classes. We learned "square ball," a sport/activity that could be played on a sidewalk with a large ball that bounced, and a lot of other things that didn't take elaborate equipment, or a gymnasium. He did a great job.

Later, when we did get a gym, but before my knee went bad, and before computers came along to take up so much of my time, I used to play basketball with whoever would, in our gym, which was often open for such activity. I had some great times. I played against some really good players, and some not so good. I wish I could remember them all, but I don't. Thanks to all of you for giving me a good time.

I used to teach ecology. I got bold enough to hold a field trip. We went all the way to the ocean, to Huntington Beach State Park, about 225 miles away. It was a great experience, in many ways. On one trip, a student got out and ran along the road when we went through Columbia. On another, or maybe the same one, there was one student who had never seen the ocean. She was, obviously, awestruck, as she should have been. (I had never seen it, either, until a month or more after I took the job.) Once I managed to back the college's van into a live oak tree in a restaurant parking lot. The business manager was very understanding, and at least one student was very helpful.

Every now and then I meet a former student in a grocery store, or some such, and I'm always glad to see them, even if I can't remember all their names. I hope I didn't treat any of them unfairly, and I hope I did some of them some good.

Two days ago, I had some more experiences. A couple of students threatened to have a retirement party for me, during our last class together. Considering the pressures of exam week, I didn't know what, if anything, to expect, but they came in with cookies, which they distributed to the class, and I got the leftovers. The whole semester with that class was super. There was a diverse mix, including three retirees, in the class, and they all got along very well. I'll miss them all. A student I haven't had for a year or so wanted to come by and say goodbye that afternoon. She had never been to my office, but found it, with some help. She said that she thought good teachers weren't appreciated as much as they should be. I pointed out to her that she was planning to become a teacher, herself. I'm sure she'll be a good one, and I'm sure that not enough people will say "Thanks!" I was glad she came.

Goodbye to all of you, those mentioned above, and those not. Having had good experiences makes it easier, and harder, to say it.


Grasshopper said...

Dr. LaBar,
I've been slowly trying to make sure I tell everyone good bye. It's rather sad to leave because I've been a student for four years, but I've really been around here for like 8-9 years. I've grown to know and love everyone. Well, I guess the point is, ... I will certainly miss you. It's not everyday that I meet an intellectual person, let alone someone who is an amazing Christian and has time for others. I hope you have a great retirement.

Good Bye!

cwv warrior said...

Dear Martin,
I'm thinking you did make your mark, planted seeds, did for're one of my very first encounters when I first started blogging so this is more of a hello! congratulations on retiring. I'm a homeschool mom; my goal for teaching was to instill a desire for true knowledge. Now that my eldest is in college and having to filter through liberal teachings, I pray it took hold. THe Christian worldview is all that matters in my book and it sounds like your students received this gift from you. THank you for a life of service.

Laura said...

Goodbyes are sad, but good too. I remember the fall after I graduated I came back to visit for a few days and to my surprise... SWU was continuining without me. I called my mom and told her that it felt really weird because I was not "apart of it" anymore. Everyone was still living. I really enjoyed my time at SWU. I would also like to say to you that I attribute some of my soon to be official success in graduate school to you and Dr. Sinnamon and other professors at SWU. When success comes my way and my parents tell me they're proud of me I make sure to let them know that it's their sucess as well... that I couldn't have done it (at least so easily) without their support. I would also like to extend that statement to you Dr. Labar... "My success is partially your success."

Jay C said...

Dr. LaBar, I think that "goodbyes" in this case become increasingly hard because of the love that it shown on this campus. In my experience, I have never had so much trouble letting go to something as I have had to begin doing with this campus and the people here. Its because of Professors like you who show true and honest love and compassion for your students, that people become so attached to this atmosphere. I truly will miss SWU, moreso than any place I have ever had to leave. Thank you Dr. LaBar for everything that you have done in my life. I consider you a blessing.

Jean Jarnigan said...

Dr. LaBar, I cannot believe that you are retiring. I am experiencing happy/sad feelings...happy for you that you will have time to enjoy that new grandchild and your precious family, sad because students at Southern Wesleyan will not have the opportunity to have you as a professor. I only attended there one year, back in the days it was Central Wesleyan, and I cherish the memories of you, the friends I made there. Please know you made a difference in countless lives across the years.