The last 36 hours have been a whirlwind of activity as I participated in the 2013 Marszalek Lecture Series, which involved the contributors to the collection of essays, entitled Of Times and Race, that honored John Marszalek. What follows is a brief outline of the two days, with some concluding thoughts.
On Tuesday night, Mike Ballard, Tom Cockrell, Steve Michot, Horace Nash, and I had dinner with John and Jeanne Marszalek and several other guests. Wednesday started with breakfast at Starkville Cafe. We then met with the Mitchell Memorial Library coordinators to discuss some of the issues that higher education faces. From there, we moved across campus to Griffis Hall, which houses the Shackouls Honor College, to have lunch with several of the Distinguished Scholars. This luncheon was a special treat for me, as my friend Tommy Anderson, who succeeded John Marszalek as Mentor to the Distinguished Scholars, presided.
Tim Smith joined us for the main event, moderated by Bill Parrish. The session was videotaped, and I’ll link it here once it is available (press release). The evening meal at the Marszaleks capped a fast-paced but fulfilling time with The Cheerful Assassin Alumni.
Several themes emerged from formal and informal discussions that took place:
- The importance of John’s professional mentorship to his students. All of us described instance after instance of his ability to motivate and inspire. Reading his heavily annotated edits of our seminar papers and dissertation drafts was never easy, but as John made clear today, his philosophy was to help students reach their highest potential. (My students can attest to his influence on me in this area.)
- John’s interest in humanizing the relationship between professor and student. He and Jeanne deliberately sought out and created opportunities to become involved in students’ personal lives, getting to know them on a personal level and allowing students to see them as human beings as well.
- The challenges of higher education. All of John’s students shared stories about the problems that we face on our campuses. Even the discussion with the library coordinators centered on finding ways to use technology to our advantage, both as researchers and for our students.
My own personal takeaways?
- Being reminded of the importance both of holding students to high standards and of serving as their mentor.
- Seeing the potential possibilities when like-minded academics agree to work together for the benefit of higher education.
- Learning that taking a road trip with Tom Cockrell and Mike Ballard is a dangerous proposition.
Gentlemen, it was a pleasure to spend time with you as we honored John and Jeanne. Let’s get together again sometime soon.
Updated (3-29-13): Thanks to Steve Michot for the pictures. MSU press release.