My 10th grade World History teacher, Patricia Logsdon, died this week at age 88. She spent 40+ years teaching at Culver City (CA) High School.
Normally, the passing of older people may spark a brief moment of recognition and nostalgia ("a la recherche du temps perdu"), but in Pat's case, she gave thousands of 16-year-olds their first glimpse of a wider world from her rhapsodic descriptions of Madame Bovary and her fellow courtesans in France (and the Power of Women!) to vivid images of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah and their fight for independence from the British Empire.
When she suggested a topic for a term paper -- an obscure massacre of Indians by British colonial troops in the 1930s -- I found myself being drawn in to their struggle. When Nehru's daughter and future Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came through Los Angeles that year (1962!!), Pat practically pushed me to find her and get her perspective on the incident I was writing about. A brief call to her suite in Beverly Hills got me an invitation to High Tea and my first one-on-one meeting with a world leader. I remember Pat beaming at my description of tea and opining that "Now, D'Artagnan (my then-nom de guerre as I was a fencer), everything is possible." I carry that inculcation to audacity as do many others who were lucky to have known Pat.
That kind of teaching seems to me a rare and vanishing thing these days. I wish it weren't so.