Sunday, February 09, 2014

Have A Bon Bon, Sir

My mentor professor, Wallace W. "Wally" Sherwood, retired last year. And good for him. Bad ~ really bad ~  for the pre-law students that are coming up without him. He was that spectacular.

Prof. Sherwood was hard to describe. There were only a handful of us who actually liked him. But those 4 or 5 of us took every class he offered, every opportunity we got. I never worked harder for a professor; never got worse grades on tests. His attitude was if you were passing his tests, then you didn't need him. One mid-term, the high grade was 68. No, it wasn't mine. Although, in another class, I got a 78 ~ the highest single test grade he gave in any of his classes that year ~ and stunned him.

He is the one who got through to me that the Constitution is nothing more than a piece of paper, once you leave this country (no comment for now); that it is better to be just than to be fair; that it is okay to fail gloriously and in public because it means you tried to do something glorious.

We weren't friends. He wasn't that kind of professor. But I adored him. In reading about him in all the stuff that gets written about a tenured professor when they retire, I realized just how much I didn't know him ~ and how much more I would have adored him.

He was on the leading edge of the civil rights movement in Boston. Committed to social justice. Practiced law in some of the worst parts of the city, defending the people no one thought worthy of defense. Did that mean he defended some guilty people? Sure. Show me a defense attorney who hasn't. More though, he brought law ~ if not always justice ~ to people who believed they would never have access to it. And if they still missed out on the justice part, it wasn't his doing.

The odds are good I will never see him again. I knew that when I graduated back in 1994. I don't do homecomings ~ and somehow, he never struck as the type who would either, although I could be mistaken. But he impacted my life in a way few people have. I'm sorry for the students who will never know what it's like to fail one of his tests ~ and be proud of it anyway.

Have a bon bon and a bourbon, Prof. Sherwood. God knows you deserve it.

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.