Friday, July 13, 2007

Another lost link...

Dr. Ralph Lynn
Baylor History Professor
(Image from Baylor University)

A newsletter from Baylor University arrived by email this morning announcing the death of emeritus professor of history Dr. Ralph Lynn, who retired way back in 1975, the year that I entered Baylor.

That brings back memories, though only a few directly about the man himself. I didn't have him for any of my history classes because he'd already retired by the time that I got interested in history, but he was one of those legendary teachers who inspires great love among his students along with great passion for learning.

I thus encountered him, for the most part, vicariously -- through the lived experiences of others -- though I did have a one-time Honors Seminar with him. As I recall, his political views were quite far to the left, more to the left than mine, anyway, for I recall him defending the Soviet Union at a time when one ought to have known better. Theologically, he was more to the right and taught a Sunday School class at First Baptist Church of Waco. Apparently, he wasn't an indoctrinator, unlike too many professors these days, for his students and colleagues praise him as a positive model for a life dedicated to learning through re-examining what one believes. My old Russian history professor, Wallace Daniel, says this:
"I know of no one who could better, more effectively, than Dr. Lynn shake students out of their lethargy and out of their ordinary, unexamined views of the world. Whether banging his hand on the table, hitting his head against the wall, or sighing with his familiar phrase, 'I give up!' at human foibles, he always forced us to reexamine ourselves. But behind everything was a tremendous sense of hospitality and of love of learning. And they were exemplified in so many ways: his open house on Ninth Street, the homecoming receptions every year, his care for students, the light in his study which burned until late into the night, his voracious reading that he kept up until the end of his life, and his encouragement of so many people."
I can't say that he had a profound impact on my life, but he did make an impression. I happened to live just one street down from his place on Ninth Street, so I used to see him, occasionally, as he took a stroll or walked to the university campus. He looked vigorous and powerful in his late 60s, so I'm not too surprised that he lived to 97.

If I live that long, then I can look forward to another 47 years of learning ... and blogging, of course ... but I'll never again be a naive student of 19 living one street down from Dr. Lynn on Tenth Street in a ramshackle old house where I cracked absurdist jokes with Ken Askew, talked about my wild life with Tim Anderson, argued radical politics with Don Howard, and slept on a balcony so tilted that I at times literally rolled out of bed with ... uh, nobody.

Those are the things that I remember most when I think of Ralph Lynn.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home