Homage to a Professor

Posted on January 22, 2014 at 6:00 am

by Michael Sierra

I was reminded recently of an old college English professor. Dr. Gene Bluestein passed away about a decade ago, but his influence on me continues. Why is he so memorable? The thing was, he made each of his students feel special as he introduced the world to them and made the journey of discovery just as important.

In the manner of the time, the late sixties, we called him Gene. We all loved him. A self-described generalist, the English classes he taught included literature, music, poetry, art, politics (it WAS the sixties!) and popular culture. He saw the world as one entity woven with the threads of all disciplines. We could be discussing Faulkner, e. e. cummings, or the Transcendentalists, and the next moment be listening to Delta blues, Elizabeth Cotton, or viewing R. Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion World. A talented recording artist himself, he brought special friends to campus, including Peggy and Mike Seeger, Bessie Jones, Jean Ritchie, Maya Angelou, Willie Mae Thornton, and others for both performances and conversations. He introduced the voice of folk to us through Woody Guthrie, Studs Terkel and Appalachian folk tales. It was a wonderful and fun education, and we all felt he was speaking directly to each of us. It started me on a long quest for knowledge and to my career as a librarian.

His motto was: “Everybody is insecure and nobody gets enough love.” Do your best to remember that in dealing with your fellow man. And that is the greatest lesson I learned from him. I continue to try to live it every day and do my best to pay it forward.

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