To David Karp, Brian Braman, Henry Blackwell and Others

In the Spring of 1993, after a lackluster half-year at Fairfield University in Connecticut, I decided to apply to one school as a potential transfer: Boston College. My reasons for the possible move were two: 1) My closest friend at Fairfield was determined to transfer down the coast to Georgetown and 2) I found the education at Fairfield to be average at best.

After a long wait on the anxiety-inducing "wait list", I was accepted. Following a 2.7 grade point average at Fairfield, I opened my tenure at Boston College with a rousing 2.5. But in that first semester, a Sociology professor by the name of David Karp, struck some sort of chord. I couldn't quite claim what it was, but I found myself, for the first time in my life, interested in education. We talked about societal dynamics around class, race, religion, geography and so forth. Almost baffling to myself, I was interested.

As the following year opened, I enrolled in classes such as "Inequality In America", "Society: Crime & Punishment" and the class that challenged me more than any in my life: "Narrative and Interpretation". The final class was taught by a middle-aged African-American man named Henry Blackwell. His intellectual stamina and overall solemnity left me racked with nerves as I stepped into his class twice a week. Over the course of an entire semester, we read and analyzed only three books: Kate Chopin's "The Awakening", William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" and Zora Neal Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God". These novels and the way that we studied and dissected them, changed my overall perspective on literature, the arts and the power of story.

Then came continued work with David Karp, a man whose humility and life challenges left me in awe. He would tell stories not just about the world, but about himself and his struggles with depression. To this day, I will never forget his metaphor of pulling over into the "breakdown lane" on a family trip. I had never seen a teacher share such inner struggles and the circuitous roads it took to handle and deal with such inner demons. Perhaps it was a non-traditional form of education, but I was learning things that were clearly beyond the walls of some syllabus. And as a result, my grades began to soar.

And finally came Brian Braman's "Person and Social Responsibility", a full year course that included a requirement to do work outside of class. Within the room, we read Plato and Camus, and the latter's novel, "The Fall", still stands as perhaps the most important book I've ever read. In the community, I worked in a housing development, mentoring a young Puerto Rican boy named Melvin. This experience alone is worthy of a novel. I was growing beyond my imagination.

There were countless other professors, books and experiences that opened my mind to the world. On this day, Martin Luther King Day, and just hours from the inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th president, I share the meaning, pride and understanding with these three men, a trio of professors at Boston College who changed everything about me.


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