The Brower

Not only the photo of the day, but my five-hundredth post and a tribute to the wonderful man pictured above.

Yesterday was my last day of speech class. It was also my professor's. Some would rightly call the end of Dr. Brower's career at this seminary the end of an era. He's been teaching speech here since 1954, 53 years.

Born on February 28, 1926, in Birmingham, Alabama; his father was a lawyer and his mother was a classically-trained singer. Early in his childhood, his family moved from the deep South to New York City. When he grew up, he became an actor on the the stage, screen and television. He's worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Charlton Heston and everywhere from his hometown, NYC, to Hollywood, CA. He never earned an actual doctorate, but he certainly earned the title. He married in his early twenties and they recently celebrated their 62nd anniversary. He and his wife have three sons and 2 grandchildren; a granddaughter named Lucy and a grandson named Charlie. (I don't think the Peanuts reference was intentional, but it is certainly amusing.)

He teaches at a seminary, but he's an agnostic. His methods are different from the rest of the professors; while they have their students read one liners written by children, his students read Shakespeare. Almost all of the other juniors taking speech with other professors were envious of those of us who had Brower. He knew we could rise to the occasion of interpreting verse written 500 years ago. He gave us the freedom to write and deliver our own material. He was encouraging without being a pushover. And he genuinely enjoyed our youthful exuberance and silly antics.

We didn't even know that yesterday was going to be his last class until we were there and, let me tell you, he made a grand exit. As the class was wrapping up, he moved to the front of the room where there was a CD player. He said something about trying to determine what his last words to us should be. Suddenly, the voice of Frank Sinatra singing "I'll Be Seeing You" filled the room. The song played and Dr. Brower was lip-syncing along with it as he went around the room shaking each of our hands. His last "official" words to us came as he mouthed the last line to the song: "I'll be looking at the moon / but I'll be seeing you."

I regret that I didn't take my camera to class yesterday, but I think the picture above (taken at the BGLASS barbeque with Katie) is a good one. It doesn't quite capture Dr. Brower's jovial personality or razor-sharp wit, always expressed in the best words possible, but a picture never could. A picture could never show the sparkle in his eye as he speaks one of the hundreds of poems he has memorized or the radiant charm that exudes from him when he smiles and laughs. It's possible that I'll never see Dr. Brower again, but I expect it's more likely that I will indeed see him "in all the old familiar places."

Thank you, Dr. Brower, for staying on staff for one more year. Your class will be one of those I remember for the rest of my life.
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