Wednesday, April 7, 2010

a hero

Looking back, I could have gotten out of BJU in the regular amount of time but I made some crucial errors in planning my schedule. One was College Math with Dr. Phoa. He said DIE-a-mee-ter instead of die-AM-eter. This confused us freshman. But that was not the reason the class was so hard. I actually don't know why it was, other than my brain is wired for words better than it's wired for numbers. I should have taken bonehead math or whatever the easiest class would have been to fulfill my math requirement.

Another "clever" idea I had was to re-arrange the suggested schedule of classes and take American History when I took American Literature, and the English (British) history/lit together. This actually screwed up almost everything and I was left with odd classes that I had to stay an extra semester to take.

Well, I do think I could have done some in summer school and squeezed them all in that last academic semester (my last and final semester being student teaching) or something, but my dad let me have an easy (and I mean easy, like 12 credits) 8th semester (when I should have been student teaching) so I could

a. Take Modern Fiction with Dr. Hurst and
b. Be the president of the CRC (Community Relations Council)

I mean really, how are those reasons to stay an extra semester anywhere?

Dr. Hurst was without a doubt my favorite teacher at BJU. Other places call them professors, I guess; we called them teachers. Actually, both Hursts were Doctors, so I called them Mr. Dr. Hurst and Mrs. Dr. Hurst (I thought I was super clever for doing this). They both taught in the English department. I only ever had Mr. Dr. for classes. I had him one semester for British Literature (I think; maybe American) and for Modern Fiction.

He was incredibly intelligent and articulate; to teach he'd lean against a wall, holding a copy of the book we were discussing (my clearest memories are from Modern Fiction), stare into space, and ramble. In a good way. I was forever scratching down funny phrases he said in the margin of my notes. My friend Jan (who had taken the class 2 yrs before) and I were constantly discussing him and how funny and smart and intelligent he was. Once I didn't understand an assignment and had done it incorrectly and gotten a bad grade but I went and talked to him about it and he gave me a better grade but wrote "you baaaaaaad girl" on top of the paper (I still have that paper somewhere, because it makes me laugh. But after digging out those journals and needing some kind of upper after reading them, I am not inclined to go excavating my past until I'm more at peace with it. 15 years has not been enough).

My first memory is from the first class I took (either American or the first half of British Lit. - oh, that's it, the first half of British Lit. I had the former nun for the second semester of Brit Lit)(I realize I'm typing this and could just correct myself without all the insight into my thought process but it seemed more interesting this way) with him. I was a sophomore and for some reason had dyed my hair either right before coming down to school or right after arriving. I picked something off the shelf at a drugstore; it was my first experience coloring my hair. It might even have been one of those 'wash out after 14 wash' deals, and it was red. Dr. Hurst was going through the roll, calling names and then looking at the names' owners, occasionally making comments or asking questions.

He called me: "Sarah Reidenouer" (ride-an-hour, my maiden name)

Then, "what's a girl with a German name doing with red hair? You should have a name like Fitzpatrick here." (there may have been more but this is what I remember)

I was laughing this whole time. Everyone knew I'd dyed my hair. It was so obvious to everyone who knew me and anyone who remembered me from before my hair had been dyed, which was only like a day or two before.

"WHY do you have red hair?" (this wasn't an accusatory, give-me-an-answer-or-else question, just part of the rambling, part of processing a new class curiosity).

So I told him. "Because I dyed it."

Class erupted in laughter. He apologized profusely.

Then later I passed him in the hall and he apologized again. He said, "Your body language was screaming 'shut up!' but I just kept going."

"It's fine," I told him. "Everyone knows anyway."

I loved that I'd gotten attention from a teacher. And I wondered how my body language could have been screaming "shut up" when I didn't care.

Once, in Modern Fiction, I walked into class and there was a test. I had forgotten and didn't study but only missed one question. I just got English and I think (I like to flatter myself) I thought on the same wavelength as Dr. Hurst.

Except when it came to Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence. He said Archer was controlled by society and the women in that society; I insisted on arguing that Archer made his own choices. We had to agree to disagree.

We read some good stuff in that class: Heart of Darkness (the horror! the horror!); Cry, the Beloved Country; The Great Gatsby. There was more, short stories and more novels, but I can't think of them now. I'm sure I have that syllabus somewhere as it was passed out by my hero.

The beginning of the semester I student taught, I ran into Dr. Hurst somewhere and mentioned I was student teaching. What he told me would turn out to be strangely prophetic: "student teaching didn't make me want to stop teaching, it made me want to stop living." And student teaching was, indeed, the worst collection of 4 consecutive months in my entire life. But that's another post.

I heard that the Hursts went to Clearwater. I hope they got out relatively unscathed, with humor, intelligence, great phrasing, and love for words intact.

**Since I wrote this on Sunday, I gathered the energy to google him and found him here.


  1. he sounds like an awesome prof! i think there's nothing better than a prof that just leans back and rambles.

  2. Dr. Hurst is awesome. Just plain awesome.

    And Mr. Phoa continually confused me as well. I believe he, too, is wonderful, if I could just understand him.