For the first time this fall I am teaching a course, through the Honors Program, that centers on the physical and emotional ideas of community. The concept of community is very important to me. I moved from Boston to Fort Collins specifically to gain a sense of community, something that a big city did not offer me. Here in Fort Collins I feel like I can make enduring relationships with friends and colleagues and neighbors. Fort Collins has surpassed my expectations in this regard. I feel like I have a network of people I can count on in times of joy, such as the birth of my son, Benjamin, and in times of need, such as the times in which my husband or myself have fallen ill.
Although not related by blood these people who are grouped above are my family, since blood ties are thousands of miles away. I like to consider CSU students, faculty and staff as part of my community. I continue to enjoy the company of the few faculty members I know, to talk to and to learn about the craft of teaching. I love to continue to see former students as they progress in their studies, and I connect with staff year after year and value how they keep the students and faculty on task.
This semester, I pay tribute to a faculty member who did not start the semester again with us. Ronny Turner, a professor in the Department of Sociology died this July, and he has left a void in our community. Earlier this summer I was talking to my Gender Roles class about Ronny. I was talking about his animated teaching style, all of his teaching awards, and how I really needed to sit in his classroom to pick up some technique so that I could pass on his knowledge of the process of teaching and learning to my students, to those who did not have the privilege to sit in his classroom. Of course, when the news of Ronny’s death got to me, I realized that my chance had passed.
Two weeks ago, I met a former student at a young man’s funeral. I asked her what she was taking this fall, and she replied that she was taking Social Deviance with Ronny Turner. She was so excited to take the course with him. She told me that she was taking the course even though she did not need the course or the credits, but just to experience his teaching style that another student had told her about. I had to inform her of his death.
I grieve selfishly for missed opportunity of stronger connections, and lessons about teaching. In his death, though, he did teach me a very valuable lesson: connect, learn, and cherish from those who are a part of your community before the opportunity is lost. To all: make this the best semester yet. Connect with those who can positively impact your education, inside and outside of the classroom. A local celebration of Ronny’s life is scheduled for 11 a. m. Saturday, September 13, at the First United Methodist Church, 1005 Stover St., in Fort Collins.
Anne Marie Merline, Ph.D.
Instructor, Honors Program