Peter Sugar

I entered the UW with many of my classmates from Roosevelt High School in the fall of 1961, transferred out of state to a small liberal arts college for my sophomore year, and returned in the fall of 1963--enticed back by that thick catalog of wonderful offerings. I graduated on time with the class of 1965. It was the UW history department that provided me with so many of the intellectual underpinnings that have kept me engaged in education ever since. I can't recall having had a bad professor while at the UW, but for me, Peter Sugar represented the very best of what the University had to offer in those days.

I can still picture him on foggy January mornings, slinking across the Quad in his trenchcoat and signature beret like some mysterious apparition. He was so short that I can recall several occasions when he pontificated from a small ladder. His unique lecture style and his strong personality, combined with his thick Hungarian accent and his powerful command of his subject matter, made him a mesmerizing force in the classroom. I recollect as though it had occurred last week, the blistering critique he delivered of a report given by a fellow student who had committed the unforgivable act of consulting--in an entirely uncritical way--Nazi sources. I shall never forget the way he leveled the poor habits of scholarship while sparing at least some vestige of dignity for the frightened soul who had unwittingly fallen into that particular snare. When Dr. Sugar's book on The Industrialization of Bosnia-Herzegovina was published, I was the first student to claim a copy at the University Book Store and certainly the first to have mine signed by Peter Sugar himself! I even memorized the inscription: "To Mr. Morgan who, if he keeps the promise he made in my class, will one day make me proud to have been among his teachers."

There can only have been a handful of students on that huge campus who were reading Hugh Seton-Watson's Eastern Europe, 1918-41 the semester I took Dr. Sugar's course on that topic, but it still holds a special place in my personal library. I also know that any perspective I have on the current crisis in Kosovo or the larger issue of continuing conflict in the Balkans I owe to that diminutive man with the exotic persona, the big voice, the amazing intellect, and the occasional encouraging word. I have spent my entire professional life in independent schools, both as a teacher and as a headmaster. For the good part of that three-decade span, I've been in the classroom teaching history and French. Peter Sugar, and a number of other great mentors from those days in Seattle, were critical forces in inspiring my career path and in shaping my intellect.

It makes me sad to think how many outstanding teachers (including the formidable Miss Clark at Roosevelt High) never realize the impact they have had upon generations of students who grew up under their care and guidance. I salute Columns for providing this opportunity to pay homage to the great professors who have made the University of Washington's reputation for excellence in undergraduate education so well deserved.

J. Gregory Morgan, '65
Mechanicsburg, Pa.

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