Saturday, May 03, 2008

An Old Friend is Honored: Professor Wallace L. Daniel

Professor Wallace L. Daniel

As a Baylor University alumnus, I receive various emails, including a Baylor Proud newsletter that comes occasionally. Such a newsletter arrived early this morning with the news that one of my old professors is receiving an honor:
Longtime Baylor professor Dr. Wallace Daniel is this year's Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year. As such, Daniel will receive $20,000 and will present a public lecture on campus later this fall . . . . The Cornelia Marschall Smith Award honoree is selected by a faculty committee based on the nominees' teaching, research and service. Daniel came to Baylor in 1971 as an assistant history professor and since then has led the Honors Program, chaired the department of history, and served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before returning to the classroom in 2005.
That sounds like a fine honor, and Professor Daniel thoroughly deserves it. I met him during my sophomore year at Baylor, introduced by Professor Morse Hamilton, who was leaving Baylor and who therefore wanted to ensure that I continued to receive good advice. Dr. Daniel guided me in some readings that Morse had assigned -- perhaps for Baylor's Honors Program, but I no longer recall. At any rate, Daniel proved to be a good advisor who took a personal interest despite being very busy with his own work in Russian and Chinese history. I ended up taking his Russian history courses and auditing other courses that he taught.

More about Professor Daniel and the Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year Award can be read online. I'd never heard of the award before, and I also learned a few new things there about Professor Daniel. For instance, I didn't know that he had received a Fulbright Fellowship three times nor that he served as Dean of Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences for nine years!

I had not communicated with him in years, but I immediately sent a congratulatory note:
Dear Professor Daniel,

Greetings from Jeff Hodges. I hope that you are fine. I just read in "Baylor Proud" the following information:

"Longtime Baylor professor Dr. Wallace Daniel is this year's Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year. As such, Daniel . . . will present a public lecture on campus later this fall."

Congratulations. That you deserve the honor, I have no doubt, for you were certainly one of the best lecturers whom I heard at Baylor, which is one of the reasons that I attended so many of your classes.

I wish that I could be on campus to hear your Cornelia Marschall Smith lecture, but Baylor's a bit far from Seoul. Perhaps the university will make a transcript available . . . or some enterprising student post it all on You Tube.

You know, the older that I get, the luckier that I consider myself that I attended Baylor. I had good teachers, and I learned how to discipline my mind through studying hard to meet my professors' exacting standards. There was little grade inflation at Baylor, and as a professor myself, I expect a lot from my students.

I've been teaching some history lately -- or maybe political science, I'm not sure. Last semester, a course on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This semester, a course on Islamism. Next semester, one course on European multiculturalism and another on Hans Blumenberg's account of the trial of theoretical curiosity. Those are at Yonsei University's Underwood International College. I'm also teaching various English courses at Kyung Hee University. Still struggling to find my place, but Korea is not entirely amenable to foreigners . . . though I like this country anyway.

I guess that you'll now be returning to your proper place as professor, away from all that administrative work that you once told me that you tried to avoid. I can't quote you exactly, but you confided that you tried to give people the impression that you were an absent-minded professor because you then had a plausible excuse for skipping departmental meetings.

But perhaps you were joking.

Best Regards,

Jeffery Hodges

P.S. If you want to see some photos of my family, go here.
To my surprise -- for I assumed that Professor Daniel would have a series of emails demanding his attention -- I received a nearly immediate reply:
Dear Jeff,

What a wonderful surprise! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed hearing from you. It has been many years, but I still recall you sitting in Tidwell 210 on the back row in the middle of the row of seats and listening patiently to my musings on Russia. You were great to have in class and I remember some very stimulating conversations with you about life and the direction you thought you might take. So it is with a lot of enjoyment that I learn you are teaching in Seoul, at such a first-rate university.

You know, it is strange, but I was in a small Baylor delegation, some five years or so ago, that visited the Yonsei International Underwood University. We were on a very short visit to Seoul, having just come from Beijing, for the purpose of trying to conclude some exchange agreements with that university. I remember well how impressed I was with the programs there. I am not sure you were teaching there at the time, but it would have been great to have visited with you.

I have loved being in the classroom again, and this year taught first-year students. It was wonderful! But I have to tell you I was offered at the end of the fall a position at Mercer University and will be going there this summer to teach and to administer. The statement I made to you about being absent minded and missing meetings was true; frankly, I am surprised administration has been interesting at all, but parts of it really have. I have learned that it is another form of teaching and trying to be creative -- and . . . sometimes it is fascinating.

Thanks for sending the pictures. Your family is beautiful. I plan to really enjoy looking closely at these pictures over the weekend. You are really great to take the time to send them and to write.

Five years ago, when he visited Korea, I was still teaching at Hanshin University -- south of Seoul, in Osan -- so I wouldn't have been around my current stomping grounds when Professor Daniel was around. Seeing him in Seoul would have been nice, though, and I ought to keep up better with people from my past so that I not miss such opportunities.

Anyway, congratulations to Professor Daniel, and if any Baylorites are surfing the internet and beach themselves here, send a note of congratulations to the good professor.

Labels: ,


At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a nice exchange between former professor/student.
Especially to see that you made an impression those many years & students ago.
Would a tactful hint that you would like at some future time to return to the U.S. of A. in an academic position be proper?

At 8:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I was impossible to ignore because I was one of the few Baylor students who had long hair and a beard. I looked like a hippy but was more of a hillbilly and actually worked hard at my studies . . . despite appearances.

I could hint until blue in the face, but lacking a published book, I'm a lost cause, academically speaking.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know several variations of the same joke. You have a PhD in something. Uncle Cran advises us that he was not the one who told us that p'ing in the bottle "from back here?"

I have a story about a "bend over and cough" thing that led a doctor to tell (fortunately a guy from Kentucky and not Arkansas) to say, "Damn fella, you've got enough leaves in there to build a squirrel's nest."

Now Professor Hodges, might we not get busy on the required book?


At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The song I mentioned in a previous blog might be germaine here....."I once had an inkling that you'd come back again; I see now that I was just 'a tinkling in the wind; You hurt me more than you'll ever know, but I still write your name in the snow."
At any rate, it would be nice if you & the family could be closer to the homeland.

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JK, I will say as Bill Clinton once did, "...listen to me carefully...I did not..." but actually I wasn't the one who told that story. I only claim my own inventions (or plagairisms of other people's works).

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, to write a book, I need a sabbatical. To get a sabbatical, I need tenure. To get tenure, I need to write a book.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:29 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, homecoming would be nice, but the prospect doesn't look especially bright.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:32 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Since the story about the bottle has occasioned a minor mystery, here's the solution for the uh . . . bottle . . . story.

Anyway, the uncle was my Uncle Harlin Perryman.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home