Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baylor University's Elizabeth Vardaman . . .

Elizabeth Vardaman

Merely five days ago, I was mourning the decease of one of my Baylor University teachers, Professor Reid, and recalled in passing another history professor, Dr. Vardaman, a retired but still active individual and one of the most impressive teachers I ever met at Baylor, or anywhere. That man knew more history than any single individual I've met anywhere in the world, and I've been around the world. I believe he had a near photographic memory, but he also had analytical skills and was very impressive, yet approachable.

But this post is about his wife, Elizabeth Vardaman, whom I first recall from the late 1970s attending Seventh and James Baptist Church, where I got to know her in Professor Daniel McGee's early morning Bible study on Sundays . . . a bit like Sunday school. Whatever one might call it, that was where I met her, and I recall her describing some sad experiences that she had undergone. These experiences had proven difficult to forget until she decided to 'bury' them. I first thought that she meant this purely as a figure of speech, but she was calling a spade a spade. She had actually gotten a spade and dug holes in her back lawn, one for each sad experience, and -- here it does meld with metaphor -- 'buried' each problem, 'covering' each one with earth and tamping the dirt down. After that, all was well. Somehow, that story of hers impressed itself upon my memory . . . though I wouldn't swear to each and every detail.

At any rate, I recently recalled this again because I was reading the most recent issue of Baylor Magazine and stumbled across Ms. Vardaman's photo and a brief column on her by Erika Snoberger-Balm, "Cultivating Leaders" (Spring 2010), telling about her work at Baylor, where she serves as Associate Dean for Special Programs in the College of Arts and Sciences and has the demanding job of advising outstanding students on how best to apply for prestigious funding. She appears to be quite good at what she does:
You could say she cuts diamonds from the rough. Almost at a glance, Elizabeth Vardaman, BA '65, MA '80, can tell if a student's got what it takes. By Rhodes, Marshall, Truman scholars and more, she's been called "mentor" and "teacher," but also "friend."
I can certainly understand that view, for I recall her as a very pleasant, kindhearted person. She wasn't a mentor or teacher to me, not because I didn't have "what it takes," of course, but because she was working on her MA at the time. She was closer to a friend because I was a grader for Professor Vardaman . . . and also a friend of his, albeit a student.

I've actually kept in touch with her and Professor Vardaman over the years, though this recent article reminds me that I need to touch base with them. For those interested in knowing Ms. Vardaman better, go to the article, where you'll discover that she knows not only about Baylor but also "something about the world":
She has administered and taught in two overseas programs (in the British Isles and Maastricht, the Netherlands) founded by her husband, retired Baylor professor Dr. James Vardaman, BA '51; been an exchange professor in China; and accompanied her husband on many alumni trips to far-flung destinations in Asia, South America and Europe. But her greatest work, she says, happens right here at home.
I don't know if they've ever made a trip to Korea, but they've been in East Asia, among other places throughout the world . . .

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At 2:30 PM, Blogger Charles Montgomery said...

He's got talent... I could easily see many of his designs on the t-shirts of uber-hipsters in Seoul and beyond..

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You mean Professor Vardaman's historical designs . . .

Oh, you must mean En-Uk's art, a different post.

Jeffery Hodges

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