Il Giorgio: THE George, (In Italian, when the article il or la is placed in front of a name, it is a sign of respect and endearment)
There have been about 14 days worth of things I should have been writing about, but today is about George. Tonight was the student going away party. It also marked the end of George’s last semester as a full time teacher. I have felt so incredibly privileged to be part of the life of such a wonderful teacher and human being and I so wanted to make sure that he was properly celebrated. I got to say a few words about the incredible teacher and colleague that George has been across his career. Here they are:
As most of you know, Thursday will be George’s very last day as a full time teacher. As of Thursday, he will have completed 30 years of teaching for Santa Rosa Junior College. During that time he has been recognized many, many times for outstanding teaching, and for leadership and exceptional service to the college. I have had the great good-fortune of knowing George for almost 20 of his 30 years at SRJC, and I can tell you from first hand experience that not only has he has given his heart and soul to teaching, he has had a tremendous impact on the lives of his students and his colleagues.
His students know him as a passionate, organized, dedicated, and knowledgeable instructor. He is relentlessly prepared for his classes. When he was selected to teach in the semester abroad program in Florence, he began learning everything he could about the Renaissance and became incredibly knowledgeable about not only the philosophy, but also about the art, history, and politics of Renaissance Florence. The depth and breadth of his knowledge is always impressive. He seems to know just about everything there is to know about philosophy, though at this very moment he is shaking his head “no” and trying to convince us that it just isn’t the case. Smart and humble are such a winning combination.
Not only does he hold himself to high standards, he holds his students to high standards, too. He is known as a demanding and fair instructor. Students usually come out of his classes feeling like they really learned a lot. What I find most impressive about George as a teacher, though, is the kindness and compassion with which he approaches his students. He truly likes them and this shines through in his interactions with them. I have watched George in action as a teacher many, many times, and I am always impressed with his ability to draw out the quietest students and guide the more opinionated students toward humility. He delights in watching his students learn and grow. He sees their potential and, even better, helps them to see it, too.
As a colleague, he is fair-minded, diplomatic, thoughtful, considerate, and wise. He is gentle with those who disagree with him, though he knows exactly when to put his foot down on an issue. His colleagues seek his counsel on nearly everything and everyone knows that if you want to get something done, you want George on your team.
Under his guidance and leadership, the Philosophy Department has become a model of collaboration and collegiality for other departments on campus. If the members of his department were here today, they would tell you how very, very much they are going to miss having him in the department.
He leaves behind him the tremendous legacy of having co-founded the Institute for Environmental Education at SRJC and acting as its director for many years. This labor of love has included the following accomplishments:
- creating and directing SRJC’s Environmental Forum
- heading up the effort to establish an Environmental Studies Major
- helping to guide the expansion of the environmental studies curriculum
- helping establish a General Education requirement in Global/Environmental Studies
- facilitating the establishment of sustainability as one of SRJC’s institutional goals
- co-founding SRJC’s Integrated Environmental Planning Committee
- working with the Foundation to establish a series of environmental studies scholarships
- and working on the coordination of student environmental events, one of which helped launch SRJC’s move toward green building design
He was also one of the first instructors in the state of California to offer a course in Environmental Philosophy. Sometimes when faculty are involved in something as momentous as setting up a whole new program for their college, they can become quite territorial about it. Not George. He has been a model of collegiality. Over the past few years he has been gradually training the next wave of leaders (and it takes several of them to do what he has been doing for many years) so that the program will continue well into the future.
So much more important than his long list of accomplishments, though, is the fact that he has been such an incredible role model to so many. I like to think of it this way. During the span of 30 years, nearly 10,000 students have come and gone from his classrooms. Thousands of hearts and minds have been opened and expanded by his expert teaching. Hundreds of colleagues have benefited from his friendship and gentle leadership style. But beyond being an exemplary teacher and colleague, he is an exemplary human being. He helps us all to see and understand what it means to live well.
SO, Please join me in raising a glass to George… Thank you for all you have done for your students, your colleagues, your community, and your planet. And thank you for all that you are in the world. May you have many wonderful adventures as you start this new chapter of your life.