Saturday, November 30, 2013

Q is for Question

DNA on a path
Over a decade ago (oh that's frightful, I can't be that old can I?), I attended a private, religious university. I was hesitant to attend. My major was Animal Science. The entire idea of science is to question, to learn, and to explore. My parents bought an entire encyclopedia set to quiet my continual questions. My reading only begged for more knowledge.

I wanted to know so much more. 

A conservative faculty and college was not a conducive environment for a fledgling scientist. 
Or so I thought.

Dr. BioChem 152 waltzed into the room with several band-aids taped to his fingers. He later explained that he'd blown up too many things. In order for his phalanges to function, they needed a little extra structure. He folded his arms and chuckled while we stared wide-eyed and slack mouthed at his airy admission of deviant behavior. 
The first hour flew by as he told nothing but stories of how and why things are made. The last five minutes of class he announced that the first twenty minutes of every class would be devoted to questions. 
 Any question - one catch, we could only ask if we wanted to learn. 
No ulterior motives. Not to waste time, not to argue. Only to learn from the most lively ninety-year-old in the world.

From politics to religion. Vitamins to medicines. He would answer.
In his lifetime he had worked for NASA, FDA, and every company from cars to toothpaste. The man served on seven boards (five were for commercial companies, two for post-graduate acceptance committees) while teaching BioChem 152.
I had wanted to learn. 
I had wanted to question. 
I wanted to know what, how and why things worked the way they did. 

He opened his office for several hours a day for one reason, to answer our burning questions. 
One day, I sat in his office with pen in hand. He pressed his finger to his lips as he tilted his head to the side. Another man shouted down the hall, "Found it!"
My professor giggled like a school boy, explaining he'd hid the new teacher's final. For the next fifteen minutes he spilled his secrets from pranks to travels. He'd visited all but a handful of countries.
When I asked why, he donned a cheshire grin. "Why not?"

Last night, my daughter snuggled beside me on the couch. She handed me the encyclopedia I'd purchased a few years before. "I want to know why..."


Unknown said...

I love this story about your 90 year old professor. I'm willing to bet you learned more from him that many of your professors.

He sounds like someone who wouldn't judge a question as being strange or give you a bad time for asking, but he'd take joy in knowing he was making a difference in your education and life.

What a privilege to have known him and have taken the time to learn as much as possible from him.

Davyd Morris said...

Bonding with professors, gleaning their knowledge, sharing ideas and ideals, it's all part of the climb up the tree of knowledge. The views are great all along the way, and the top is always higher.