Arther Farrell and Douglas North
I have two favorite professors: one that taught me to love history for no greater reason than he loved teaching it, and the other for encouraging me to question, to step outside of the answer and look in.
Dr. Arther Farrell taught ancient history, and I sat in the very back of the auditorium drinking in his lectures. If I remember nothing else from his tutelage, the hoplite phalanx is indelibly inscribed in my mind ... he even drew us an example of the formation for the overhead. My knowledge of ancient warriors scored me several points on a final "Jeopardy" question (watching at home mind you). Why did Dr. Farrell mean so much to me? Because he loved what he did, and his devotion spoke to me.
Now to Professor Douglas North, the distinguished head of the economics department (circa 1978). I chose a class that he taught in tandem with the head of the sociology department, not because I knew who he was; rather I needed a five-credit class to complete my credits for graduation. I hunted through "Soc" selections in the catalogue and came across a Soc 499 selection entitled "Economic Theory of Social Change." I liked the title and the fact that it was sociology, therefore it couldn't be too difficult. I later learned that this course was also listed under Economics as a seminar, and it was not going to be easy. I had made a major assumptive error.
I stuck with the course even though I was in over my head (a reluctant English major just trying to graduate). We walked through the Neolithic Revolution, into the Industrial Revolution in just three months, seeking catalysts for social change, sifting through economic and social conditions. The subject itself would fascinate anyone, but on a personal level, this was a growth class. For the first time in my academic career a professor of high esteem, a published author, told me one day that I had asked a very good question. Hallelujah, it was all right to ask, it was all right not to know. If he were a five-star general, I would have handed him a super nova right there on the spot.
As it happens, I took that course credit/no credit, and never wrote the final paper, though I had grand plans. I was hired by Pan American World Airways during finals week that year. Professor North gave me an extension to finish the paper over the summer, but I was based in Honolulu, and not about to set foot in a library, so I never wrote the paper. I did take the time to jot off a note to Professor North telling him how much I enjoyed the course; I even felt a glimmer of hope that he would pass me without the final, but he did not. When I received the "no credit" news, I signed up for a correspondence American Lit course that took two long, tedious years to complete.
It will be a cold day in San Diego before I forget what these fine professors and the University of Washington have done for me.
Mary L. Sherry, '78
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