Ed White: A Prelude to Learning

by Emily R. Gill '66

I had so many “favorite” professors that I couldn’t decide, so am going to say a little about three of them. Professor Philip Gray was my advisor as a lit major, and I loved all his classes, especially the two semesters of Shakespeare I took as a junior. I also loved Professor Philip Merlan in Humanities III, and his sense of humor. I ended up working for each of these professors in turn, as I was the Humanities II and Humanities III assistant, each for a year, while I was at Claremont Graduate University (MA, 1968; PhD, 1971).

But I have the most vivid memories of Professor Ed White, from whom I, with two others, took Humanities IV my senior year. It was basically an American intellectual history course, focusing on the 20th century, and we met at his home every Thursday night. When we arrived, usually grand opera would be on the phonograph, and his wife would serve us coffee and cookies before we got down to business. We discussed a different book each week, often with guest professors from other Claremont Colleges. It was always interesting.

At that time, I hadn’t decided to pursue a career in teaching. But every time I ran into Professor White in the halls on campus, he would address me as “Dr. Gill.” He had a great sense of humor, and he made me feel affirmed as a person with a good mind. I kept in touch with him after Scripps until he died—as I also did with Professors Gray and Merlan.

As a political science professor myself since 1971, I have always invited my student assistants and my senior seminar students to dinner at my home each semester, as advisors did generally at Scripps. I so enjoyed my relationships with my professors that I have wanted to do as much as possible to replicate that experience for my own students. I used to think it would be wonderful to marry a professor and serve his students coffee and cookies—but instead, my husband cooks dinner for my students! As Gloria Steinem once said, “We have become the men we wanted to marry.”

Emily Gill is the Caterpillar Professor of Political Science at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.

 

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