A favorite college professor of mine died recently. He was Winton U. Solberg, onetime head of the history department at the University of Illinois. His two-semester course on American intellectual and cultural history was the highlight of my undergraduate career.
His lectures were enthralling, and he knew it. He once chided me for missing a couple lectures during the second semester, when class was at 8 a.m. and I worked into the wee hours the night before at the campus newspaper. He said I’d better be there and be alert; there were other classes I could nap in.
I reached out to him about a year ago and got a chatty note in reply. He said he was still writing books and still going into an office or study space at the university about once a week. A remarkable man, he died July 10 at age 97.
Another of my favorite instructors was Henry Lippold. He taught broadcast journalism (my major) and was news director at WILL-TV, the local public TV station. He later created the broadcast journalism program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Henry was a human dynamo. He rarely stopped moving, even while delivering the news from behind a desk. I’d lost track of him. He died last year at age 89.
Howie Ziff was the one who steered me away from broadcast journalism and into the world of print. A former night city editor at the Chicago Daily News, he also left the U of I shortly after I did. He founded the journalism program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He died in 2012.
One more strong influence at an impressionable age was Nuel Pharr Davis. Author of Lawrence and Oppenenheimer, he taught creative writing. He chain-smoked unfiltered Kool cigarettes, and by the time our class met in midafternoon, he was pretty hyper. I don’t know what happened to him. But he would be more than 100 now, so I suspect he’s gone, too.
Notice that I have named no women. As I recall, the only women instructors I had were for those dreadful introductory biology and botany classes, and about them I remember little.