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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Thursday, March 8 2001

Johnstown College teachers (tenth in the series on teachers)

Before we leave this topic, I'll say a little about my college teachers, as a memoir. I've forgotten most of them, but the standouts are worth a mention. I attended Johnstown College/Pitt (JCP, now UPJ) for three and a half years; Pitt in Oakland for over a year (part-time); Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary, Philadelpia, over two fulltime years; Shelton College, Cape May, N.J., one fulltime year, and UCLA two years.

First, although I didn't take a course from him (and so far as I know, he wasn't teaching), JCP president Theodore Biddle, who came to the college shortly before I did, was a memorable man. He gave the address at my high school graduation, mentioning several JCP students and prospective students, but somehow omitted my name. Without any reminder on my behalf, he somehow discovered the oversight and immediately mailed me an apology. After starting college in the fall, I met him in his office several times and always found him gracious and interested in his students. JCP was very small for a college, with only several hundred students, but the administration and teaching staff seemed very well qualified, so I was impressed. He, probably more than other individual, is credited with turning that small junior college into a good undergrad university campus.

The last time I met him was in one of the several basements of the University's Cathedral of Learning in Oakland, where I was on my way to an evening class and he was, no doubt, there on university business. He recognized me and engaged me in conversation, catching up on my academic progress. I knew by this time that I had to leave Pitt and the Valley, because less than full-time status as a student wasn't acceptable to the Federal Administration which was determined to send anyone it could to Vietnam, and I couldn't go to Oakland as a fulltime student and keep working at the Journal (I had no other way of funding the portion of school not covered by scholarships). When Dr. Biddle heard about my haphazard approach to getting my undergraduate degree, he expressed disappointment and the opinion that I'd never make it to a degree that way. (If he only knew!) Again, I was impressed. He cared enough not only to ask, but to give advice that he hoped would help. Though I did make my way to my undergraduate and graduate degrees haphazardly, that was the best a coalminer's son could hope for in the '60's—I did "make it," but his words were a constant inspiration to keep pressing forward.

My favorite Pitt teacher was John Crow. (Maybe "Crowe.") He was known in the area as the Tribune Democrat's "Old Angler," but in person he didn't impress us as an angler but as a nice gentleman with a lot of information on English usage, journalism, and life. He was both my major teacher and the faculty advisor on the Pitt Panther, the school paper for which, unlike the Blacklick Township High School paper, I was permitted to be a writer (my "professional" status with the Journal wasn't considered a disqualifying factor as it was by the high school English and business teachers). Mr. Crow was the first teacher to introduce me to "style" as a major factor in writing and also encouraged us to market our writing freelance. His guidance has continued to direct my professional paths and I've always tried to imitate his classroom manners in my own teaching. He was the first person to impress upon me, by his behavior, that older people can stay young in their approach to life.

Three other Pitt teachers are worth mentioning. Dr. Idzkowski, the biology teacher, was so intelligent that we could hardly follow his lectures, but his tests were understandable and managed to keep me enrolled. Dr. Catherine McClure, a political science teacher, visited Russia in that hot period (think Cuban missiles) of the cold-war era, and came back playing a role as a Russian babushka (grandmother). A member of a family of Presbyterian clergymen, she gave us as a Christmas present a copy of a book by her minister brother, Rash, Red-Headed, and Religious. She also played a recording of an inspirational lecture by public speaker Kenneth MacFarland, which was uproariously funny and also profoundly moving. I was so impressed that I borrowed the LP record of the speech and taped it to play to all my relatives, who all enjoyed it. Finally, my sociology teacher at Pitt was Dr. George Walters, who at the time was the mayor of Johnstown. I was the best student in that class, despite the fact that sociology can be deadly boring stuff. Most of the students seemed impressed by it that way, but it was a tight fit with journalism, so I lapped it up and aced all the tests. He ran for congress against John P. Saylor and did a little schmoozing to get an endorsement by the Sedloff newspapers. I don't remember whether he got our endorsement, but Saylor was hard to beat and, in that case as the rest of his races after becoming our Congressman, unbeaten.

I expected to treat all my "higher education" figures today, but turned out knowing more worth saying than expected!

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Comprehending Engineers-Take Four

An engineer had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion-dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail.

In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past. The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated, "This is where your problem is". The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again.

The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges. The engineer responded briefly:

One chalk mark, $1
Knowing where to put it, $49,999

It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.

Sent by Trudy Myers

"I shall arise!"

—The Prodigal Son, from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Cited by Phil Steffen
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