My former professor needs to know…

By the time you read this, it will have already happened. I will have reconnected with my former Castleton State College journalism professor in what I’ve been told is his new and ever-changing state.
I will probably have seen first-hand how the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease can transform a once confident orator into a person more unsure of himself and uncomfortable in settings he used to thrive in.
But I also will have made him king of the Castle(ton) for a night, thanking him in front of hopefully more than 100 students, faculty and his former colleagues and watching him bask in the joy of knowing how much he meant to a guy who emulated his career.
I will have asked them to stand in his honor, because, as I will have said at the Phi Eta Sigma discussion about my life as a journalist and professor “without him, there wouldn’t be the current me.”
Terry Dalton was me at Castleton State College in the 1980s and 90s. He tended to the flock of would-be journalists, coaching them, pushing them and correcting them with that infamous red pen when they erred in print.
He led a very successful period for the student newspaper, The Spartan, too. I hope the college community feels I’m doing the same.
And he was me in a newsroom prior to that. He too was a journalist who loved uncovering stories, scooping the other media outlets with important stories and telling light-hearted feature stories that are simply fun to read.
Terry left Castleton to teach at McDaniel College in Maryland and makes Pennsylvania his home. He left after I had graduated and began writing stories for the Granville Sentinel and then The Post-Star in nearby Glens Falls. Although I’m sure I thought about him and his teachings as my career progressed, as life gets in the way with work and kids and obligations, his role probably faded a bit.
But it returned when I returned to Castleton State as a professor in 2005. I incorporated memories of his classes into mine. He brought in Major League pitcher Randy St. Clare for us to interview in class. I brought Byron Pitts from 60 Minutes and former classmate Mark Noble from Access Hollywood.
I try to channel his enthusiasm and lecture style as I stand these days in front of the room, notes in hand, trying to breathe life into text lessons through personal experience. I’d be lying if I said that I recall a ton from those days in his classrooms, but perhaps more importantly I remember him and the attention he gave us and the passion with which he taught and wanted us to learn. No easy A’s, but lots of coaching to get us there.
I got to work with Terry at a journalism conference in Denver three summers ago too. We assembled a panel of experts to dissect the Gulf oil spill – and what a team. We left the room dazzled and I was in my glory working with him. I hope he was too, working with me.
I’m writing this before his visit because we send the Spartan to be printed three hours before my talk. And maybe I’m glad I’m doing it ahead time. The memory of him and our work together both as colleagues and professor to student is perhaps better to write about than what might come out after seeing him fading a bit.
But as long as he knows after Monday, that he made a huge difference in a lot of lives, I’ll be happy. And I hope, someday, that maybe a student of mine will look back and think the same of me.

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