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NOVEMBER 29, 2009   

Eric May, 1939-2009

Eric May button from retirement partyWhen I was in grad school at Kent State I liked all of my teachers but became friends with only one. He died Friday. At his retirement party a couple of years ago everyone wanted to wear one of these buttons a colleague made. There weren't enough to go around. Eric didn't seem to understand what all the fuss was about.

He was the kind of guy you just wanted to hang around with. Not the life of the party, but the heart of it. I loved having him as an instructor but when I try to remember why it boils down to he was just Eric. He'd make suggestions and share ideas, but quietly. Always quietly.

In his own words:

The best teaching I received as a student was from those who allowed me to discover how to learn. I try to encourage students toward that freedom of discovery. It sometimes meant a simple demonstration of hand skills on my part or perhaps an intellectual nudge in a certain direction.

As Eric's teaching assistant I sometimes thought he should be more specific with his criticisms and suggestions, but that wasn't his way. I remember thinking that I'd do it differently, and I do. Maybe too differently. When I compare my teaching style to Eric's I feel like I'm too loud, too frantic, too bossy. Where he would nudge, I push, sometimes too hard.

So on Friday we lost a decent man and a unique teacher who inspired students by just being himself. I'm going to think of this sad event as a nudge from Eric in that direction.

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