The best teacher in history

Ask most successful people if a single teacher had had a profound effect on them and you'll undoubtedly receive a resounding "Yes!"

Fowler_boatIn my case, that teacher was William M. Fowler, Jr., Distinguished Professor of History, at  Northeastern University, (pictured left.)

Here's what made Fowler so instrumental in my future success:

1) He brought classroom lectures to life. Whether it was discussing the deadlocked 1876 presidential election between Samuel J. Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes or the rise of Marat and Robespierre in revolutionary France, Fowler BECAME those protagonists. He literally took on their personas and acted as he believed they had in the heat of the moment. It was spellbinding to say the least.

2) He was entirely accessible and welcomed commentary. So, instead of waiting for questions at the end of a lecture, Fowler would pause, mid sentence, and say something like, "Mr. Cody, is there something about what Samuel Tilden just said that concerns you?"For a shy, introverted student who had never been encouraged to participate in classroom discussion in grammar or high school, Fowler's 'method' provided me with a safety net with which to begin voicing my views in public.

3.) He encouraged and rewarded creativity. For one final exam, he asked us to imagine three great figures from the Civil War getting together and discussing the political scene of the late 1970s. I had a blast creating a two-act play featuring dialogue from Frederick Douglass, Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln positing their views of then President Jimmy Carter's response to the Iran Hostage Crisis. I was thrilled with the A-plus grade I received and still have the little blue exam book in my files.

Fowler's impact on me was enormous. I entered the workforce confident of my views and unafraid to speak up in a Hill & Knowlton conference room crowded with far older, much more seasoned PR professionals.

I don't know a better way to thank Professor Fowler than to dedicate this blog to him. Oh, and by the way, if you have a story about a teacher who made a huge difference in your life, please share it on the Repman blog. It's not a stretch to say that without Fowler, there'd be no Repman (which may, or may not, be a good thing).

2 thoughts on “The best teacher in history

  1. Awesome story, Trish. Thanks. And, FYI, this blogger has visited the PT Barnum museum in Bridgeport. It ain’t much and it costs some serious cash to enter. But, as the great showman once said, ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’

  2. My best teacher was my PR professor senior year at Purdue. I was an English education major/journalism education minor who finally realized hated literature…. but I enjoyed my journalism courses. My advisor suggested I jump to PR but that to graduate in time, I would have to take the three comm courses in one semester and get a B average to get to my PR courses.
    Intro to PR was being taught by a new prof – Josh Boyd who was fresh from his PhD and was all of maybe 22 – a real kid genius who wore a bowtie. He never worked in PR – he was an academic and he really was like 22. He made every Friday PR show and tell, so everyone had to bring something that represented PR some time that semester. Each week he showed a movie clip showing various types of PR at work. I LOVED his class because he made us understand. He also did random PR trivia for bonus points. When he asked if anyone knew what PT in PT Barnum stood for – I quickly raised my hand. Coming from a family with circus bloodlines and T standing for Taylor I knew the answer. To this day he often requests I come down to guest lecture my real life PR experiences and I really do have him to thank for my career.