2.06.2011

Abbreviated Mourning

Dear Blog & Blog Readers,

I'm sorry that I've been neglecting you. Usually, a book of 278 pages (omitting the glossary and notes in the back) wouldn't take me so long to read, and subsequently churn out a review. But the book I'm reading is dense. Not bad in any way, just dense. And we've been kind of busy at work, meaning I've had less time to read at work. And by the time I get on the train after work, I've been too tired to commit to reading. I've been playing Tetris on my iPod instead. Sorry. I promise to have a review posted sometime this week, before I go on vacation.

Love,
Lauren

P.S. I just found out this afternoon that one of my favorite English professors has passed away. It happened back in October, after being ill for some time. He was barely 50 years old. Neither Fordham nor Harvard (he taught at both, and had attended the latter) had posted anything about his passing. I only came across the information when I was looking at the stats for this blog and noticed that one of my entries had popped up in a search using the keywords "andrew furer obit."

I immediately felt a flutter of panic and searched for it, myself, thinking that maybe it was Andrew Furer, another Harvard professor, who was a kind of pioneer in Economics. It wasn't. It was Andrew J. Furer: Professor, Jack London scholar, Paul Robeson aficionado. The New York Times obituary was the only source of information I could find, and even that was cut short because it was more than 2 months old. Linked to the obit was a guestbook page, care of Legacy.com (which also does not stay posted in full after x number of days) where a dear friend of Prof. Furer's had posted a eulogy of sorts. I managed to access the cached page through Google (thank you, google) and though the page is technically off-line, I was able to see it in full now.

click photo to see full screenshot


I know that not everyone loved Professor Furer. There is at least one person (on ratemyprofessors.com) who claims that this one professor was the reason they dropped out of college. But that's because passion makes both friends and enemies. If one is so frenetically passionate about what one teaches, there will be those that follow and those that give up. I followed. It certainly helped that Prof. Furer was also so dedicated to helping his students. He would provide snacks for every class (it was a 3 hour class) and even provided the text book. Instead of assigning 14 different books where we would concentrate on 10 pages from each book over the entire semester, Professor Furer made a course packet. He used books and random-ass sources you can only get on JSTOR and poems and short stories pulled from every kind of place, and put together this giant stack of copies that he sold each student for, like, $70. If he hadn't done that, we'd each have spent closer to $150 or $200 just for that one course.

He was unique. Just yesterday I was cleaning out a bunch of old file folders and I ran across both my midterm and my rough draft of the final paper from the class I took with him. He had his own way of doing things, and that's reflected in the notes on my paper. He would make the usual marginal notes like any professor, but would then type them up with additional notes and staple it to the back of the paper, with the grade (if Philosophy professor Josh Rayman had ever done that, maybe I would know what his grades meant...if there was someone with worse handwriting than Furer, it was Rayman. sheesh.) The notes are all very specific and very constructive. I've never had any other professor be that diligent in the way they graded a term paper.

My paper did have a lot of notes (mostly build x part up, explain z, be more clear on t, v and y, etc.) but on the back of his notes, Pro. Furer wrote "Do not be discouraged by this result--it is clear from the subpoints here, as well as your always-incisive in-class comments, that you already possess a sophisticated critical intelligence, and are capable of excellent work." I don't know if that was a form-note...you know, if he just added that onto everyone's paper where they'd gotten a B or better, but it made me feel damn good. And it still makes me feel good.

I wish other proessors had been/were more like him. Sure, he was crazy passionate, and sure he was a really really tough grader. But that's because he expected you to have the same commitment to the class that he had. I got a B+ on my rough draft and a 94 (A-) on the midterm, which was the highest grade anyone got that day, and it was the most accomplished I ever felt on the academic side of my college career. I consider myself very lucky to have known Andrew J. Furer, and to have had the benefit of his passionate way of teaching.

3 comments:

  1. I am sorry for the loss of any teacher who inspired better effort from you.
    I hope his passing has brought him to a wonderful celestial research center where he can find the authors of all his chosen readings and discuss their creations.

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  2. oh no, I'm sorry a beloved professor of yours has passed :[

    The War on Words seems interesting! (I'm assuming this is the 278 page book in question based on your sidebar, but correct me if I'm wrong!) Looking forward to reading your thoughts on it.

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  3. Lauren -- What a very nice tribute you wrote to Andrew. It's warmed my heart a bit to learn that he made such a positive impression on you when you were a student. I'm the guy who wrote the entry on the Legacy.com page (and the bearded one in the photograph). If there's anything I can tell you or that would like to talk about, please get in touch with me at gluther215@gmail.com.
    Best, --Greg Luther.

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