The Way I See It: Teachers at Rice have a very special gift

The Way I See It: Teachers at Rice have a very special gift

Special to the Rice News

English Professor Dennis Huston’s classroom was the very first classroom I ever photographed when I started working at Rice as the university photographer.

It was the fall of 1987 and I was as nervous as I could be. I wanted to do a good job to prove myself, and I knew Professor Huston was held in high regard, so I felt a bit of added pressure.

The only real experience that I had being in a university classroom was from my somewhat short stay at Texas A&M. I was used to being in a theater with about 100 students and the professor seemed to be miles away. I entered Professor Huston’s class wondering how I was going to make these students look interested in whatever this wild dude had to offer. From the time he entered until the last student walked out, I had never seen or witnessed anything remotely like that before. Shakespeare? Are you kidding me?

Things got started and before I knew it, it was like being at an old-fashioned shouting revival. Kids were sitting with their feet tucked under their butts, on the edge of desks, just waiting to get a word into the discussion. Professor Huston was using vocabulary that I had only heard coaches use, and the kids were acting and reacting in a way I had never seen. Hell, I’m not sure I even got a good photo because I was so involved in listening and watching that the class was over before I knew what happened.

I remember walking back to my office with mixed emotions. I was extremely enlightened — not that I was now an expert on Shakespeare — but that for the very first time I really realized why people go to college. I can’t put it into words, but I guess I felt as though I had been cheated somewhere along the road. I wanted what these kids were getting.

From that moment on, I really started paying attention to how the professors at Rice do what they do. I know it’s not easy being a Rice student, but it has to be one of the very best experiences this country has to offer. Professor Huston and certainly many other teachers at Rice have a very special gift for helping young people find direction. I was moved in a way that changed me forever.

As the years passed, I got to know professors Rick Smalley, Ken Kennedy, Ron Sass, Franz Brotzen, Allen Matusow, Bill Martin, Sid Burrus, Frank Tittel, John Anderson, Mikki Hebl, Keith Cooper, Ed Cox, John Boles, Chandler Davidson. … The list goes on and on.

I take such pride in being a part of this place that I get overwhelmed with emotion at times. I just might have the best job in the world. Trust me, it gets to be a regular job at times, but overall, it’s been a great place to have a career.

— Tommy LaVergne is a university photographer in the Office of Public Affairs.

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