Since your earlier article, "My Favorite Teacher," included one of my favorites, historian Tom Pressly, I will not focus on this courtly scholar-gentleman. Instead, his colleague, Max Savelle, becomes my nominee.
As a "country boy" from Yakima in the early '50s, the big UW was an exciting and sometimes frightening challenge. But what better way for maturing than having Savelle as a prof? His national reputation as a scholar, his office filled with piles of research pages, and, yes, his imposing figure--short, stocky, bow tie, and massive head--all made me tremble a bit in his presence.
At the beginning of my first seminar with Professor Savelle, he gave us a bibliographical assignment. Knowing little about such research, I waded through portions of the UW massive card catalog and compiled several inches of 3 x 5 cards. I thought it was an impressive stack! At our next seminar meeting, Savelle, after thumbing through a few of my cards, suddenly looked up at me and, with a frown that made my heart skip, asked where I got this information. I told him. He sighed (as I often have when my community college students mangle an obvious assignment) and said curtly, "This won't do." He then somewhat patiently explained the use of bibliographies. My state of shock was softened as I realized he was not really angry, that he was merely doing what needed to be done--teaching me something basic about the scholarly process.
Through subsequent contacts with Professor Savelle, I realized that he was a friendly and often humorous fellow who remembered his former students, always inquiring about the progress of their careers. "This won't do" was merely an alarm bell indicating the high academic standard he expected. That sound has been a guide for almost half a century, reminding me to try to come as close as possible to the Savelle standard of excellence, to something that "would do." So, I thank Max Savelle (as well as professors Pressly and Scott Lytle) for a university education.
James G. Newbill, '53, '60
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