Spartan Snapshots

Snapshots is a exclusive feature telling stories that current and past members of the Castleton State College community choose to share. To submit a ‘Snapshot,’ send your work to

Terry Dalton was my former journalism professor here at Castleton, a man who I credit with pushing me into journalism and a man I try to emulate as I strive to fill the big shoes he left behind.

But in addition to his inspiring lectures, willingness to always help me and others make our news stories better and his persistent smile, I vividly remember Terry’s red pen.

It was an infamous writing implement in his classes. Often times my stories would come back with more ink from that pen than ink from my typewriter used to produce it. (Yes I said typewriter – with an erasable cartridge, though.)

That red pen once led a good friend of mine, Cristine (Filippelli) Smith, to fly into a rage and storm out of the classroom, slamming the door in her wake. She clearly wasn’t happy with her grade, and made it very well known to the professor and everyone in the class.

I have spoken to Terry over the years, picked his brain when I decided to go to graduate school and again when Professor Bob Gershon asked me if I’d be willing to teach as an adjunct while attending school.

He was always willing to offer advice, even though he stopped being my instructor in 1989.

But in a conversation a year or two ago, I raised the issue of the infamous red pen. The pen that made me squirm every time I got a paper back. I’d read and read the red-inked comments on page after page, finally getting to the last page where the grade rested.

Most times, I’d let out a sigh of relief to see the B or A at the end – but boy he made me sweat getting there. With so much red in the prior pages, I was sure I was in for a low grade.

I guess I’m relaying this story – in part because no one else sent in a “Snapshot” story for consideration this issue – but also because in that conversation, Terry told me he retired the old red pen. Apparently there was another Christine-esque student at his new college, McDaniel College in Maryland, who took a serious dislike to the pen and convinced him to change colors.

Red, she apparently told him, was too in-your-face and not at all a warm color for righting the wrongs of students’ writing. I couldn’t remember which color he switched to, so I called him last week to check. It’s green.

I tend to edit and correct students’ stories online these days, using bold type and parenthesis to denote what was wrong and how it should be done. I think it works better than having them hand in hard copies for a few reasons: They can read my comments better than if I wrote them out; it conserves paper, and I type faster than I write. One reason I didn’t really consider is the daunting nature of the red pen.

In fact, I still use a red pen frequently for correcting mid-terms, and the occasional assignments I get on paper.

I’m not sure how the students feel about my red pen? No one has stormed out of my classes, although I think I would have died at least a few times if students’ looks could kill me.

Maybe some day I’ll switch to green, although I don’t have a green pen. Maybe I’ll find out how students feel if at Christmas time I have a few green pens waiting for me by my office door.

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