In one of my early years at Penn State, there was an ex-Marine in the class. He was extraordinarily opinionated, frequently disagreeing with me, always asking fantastically interesting questions. His mind would go anywhere. He got top A’s throughout, but he wasn’t trying for them. He blogged on ballsy topics, never asked ‘Will this be in the exam’ or ‘How many blogs to I have to do’. He was the first student to get all questions in one of my tests right.
But he didn’t care about that record. He just wanted to learn, to push me and himself. He loved it. He told me he was so glad to be in my classroom: it was peaceful, respectful, and intellectually demanding. The very opposite of his Iraq experience he said. No IEDs, no bullets, no one who hated him. I told him that if a shooter came in through the classroom door, my plan was to hide and let him deal with it. He just laughed and laughed and laughed.
That Fall was the fall of Sandusky. I bumped into my Marine outside Old Main. He was carrying a huge sign demanding the President’s ass even though Spanier had just been in my class (and very effective he was too). When I saw the Marine next, after Spanier had been sacked, he was just so pleased change could be affected. I often wonder what happened to him. I’d love to meet him now, to see what a Penn State degree does to a combat vet with a lust for learning and life. A man who served, a man on fire to use his brain.