Auf Wiedersehen…Not Good-By

Larry Spencer Biological Sciences

Even though you may forget them, your students will remember you. I present two cases as evidence. The first is fairly recent.

My wife encountered a medical condition that required three separate surgical procedures. The last one took place in the outpatient complex at Dartmouth Hitchcock. Even though it was minor, I drove her to Dartmouth so as to be physically present in the waiting room while the surgery took place. I was invited to assist her in preparing for the surgery. During that time the nurses and the anesthesiologist visited the cubicle to introduce themselves and to facilitate the preparations. To my surprise, the anesthesiologist was a student of mine from the late sixties. He had changed his major while at Plymouth State to biology because he found the subject matter interesting and instructors competent. Some years after graduating, he had attained his anesthesiologist credentials. Since I had trained him to be a biologist, I felt confident that my wife was in capable hands. After the surgery he took the time to come to the side door where she was waiting while I got the car for the return trip home.

The other occurred some time ago. When I taught the geology sequence, I worked with many geography majors. Because both semesters had labs, I got to know most of them very well. My wife Eleanor and I had traveled to Kauai with some of her relatives. We had all traveled to the beach that lies adjacent to the Napali Trail. She and I had hiked that trail during a previous trip to Kauai. This time we were almost at the beach when I decided that it would be wise to use the rest room. It was near the trailhead. When I arrived there, whom should I see but one of my former geology students who had just come off the trail! He was visiting a friend on Kauai and had decided to hike the trail. If I hadn’t made the trip to the restroom, I would have missed him. We talked for a long time about what he had been doing since graduating from Plymouth and then said our good-byes.

Two summers later Eleanor and I were taking the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. We were sitting on the top deck enjoying the scenery. I turned around, and who should be sitting in an adjacent seat? None other than the same student! Eleanor had just read the Celestine Prophecy, so she said to the student, “This meeting must have some sort of galactic reason for happening. When will your next meeting take place?” Since then I’ve never seen or heard from the student.