“Now Katie, you’re better than that” said Dr. A, in his office one morning after I had pulled another mindless 15 year old stunt in the classroom. In addition to my very outspoken classroom antics, I was also a student sports contributor to our local paper. “I’ve read your writing,” he said “You’re a very talented writer. You should seriously consider journalism, Katie. Look into USC. They have an excellent journalism program.”
Dr. A has motivated me to write several times throughout my life, and I find no better way to honor him than with a few words about the man who made such a powerful and positive impact on the small community of Clinton, SC.
Dr. A was the principal and leader of Thornwell High School during my attendance there. His enthusiasm and brilliant smile gave the campus energy day in and day out. He was excited to be teaching, which made us excited to learn. We were a small school, and I remember Dr. A taking on such tasks as picking up trash, even mowing the grass one hot afternoon. He loved Thornwell, and took pride in every aspect of our school.
In addition to his passion for science and psychology, Dr. A had a knack for turning a negative into a positive. He chose to emphasize the good in everyone and himself, even in times of failure. He tutored me a few weeks one summer after a tumultuous year in Pre-Calculus. His psychology class was one of the most powerful and memorable courses I took in high school. He was motivating, informative, and loved to throw in those “Coke and pack of cracker” questions to get us thinking. He would keep us on task by stating “We’re burning daylight here!” and I still repeat that to myself daily as motivation to push further and work harder.
He also loved a good joke, and was always looking for a chance to make people smile. My Dad has always played a delightfully quirky song on my birthday ever since my childhood. Since it was my 16th birthday and my Dad wanted to do it up big, he teamed up with Dr. A to provide me with the most hilariously mortifying moment in my life. I was sat in the chemistry lab waiting for the mid-morning announcements to come over the PA when all of a sudden I hear a dreadfully familiar song. I couldn’t help but laugh out of love and embarrassment with my class and instructor. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live.
I remember another morning my senior year as I burst in the back doors from the parking lot, late as usual with a hot Whiteford’s chicken biscuit in my hand. Dr. A was there in the hallway, checking up on the classes that had just begun. I was literally caught red-handed with my delicious “excuse” for being late. He gave me a stern, but knowing look then said “Go in my office and eat that, then head right to class.” He patted me on the shoulder as I walked past. I will never forget the lesson in compassion he taught me that day. He lived to teach, in and out of the classroom.
Dr. A was also one of the reasons I got into college. I wrote about someone who had inspired me, changed my way of thinking and encouraged me to be a better person. That was Dr. A. I remember getting a handwritten note on my acceptance letter mentioning my essay, and how special Dr. A must have been. I gave Dr. A a copy of my essay after my acceptance. He simply smiled, said thank you, and carried on. He gave me another lesson in what it meant to be humble.
Dr. A was a kind man. He was patient, understanding, and truly listened to everyone that spoke to him. He loved unconditionally, I really believe he loved everyone he came in contact with. He was a living example of the Christian faith he so deeply believed in. My heart aches for his family and for everyone who was touched by him. While the world has truly suffered a great loss in his passing, Dr. A’s light and love will continue to touch the hearts and minds of so many that were fortunate enough to have known him.
God bless you, Dr. A. We will miss you.