Saying Goodbye

I had the privilege of being one of the first-year students who witnessed Instructor Norman S. Care as he strode rather nervously to the podium for the first lecture of his first introductory philosophy course on the first day of his first autumn at Oberlin. The first thing he did was to circulate a seating chart and ask us to fill it with our names.

I thought, "Give us a break, Mr. New Professor! What is this, Oberlin College or Podunk High?" He proceeded with his lecture-cum-discussion on determinism vs. free will, looking down at his seating chart whenever some brave soul would raise a hand. To tell the truth, I was relieved when it was all over: This brand-new, untenured, seemingly nice but shy young faculty member had made it through his very first lecture in one piece. Whew! Too bad he needed the "crutch" of a seating chart to connect with the real people in his audience. Two days later, we filed back into the lecture hall and sat wherever we landed; the last thing on our minds was that precious seating chart. Mr. Care resumed his lecture on determinism, encouraging us to interrupt at will. At first, a number of brave students–eventual philosophy majors, as I recall–raised their hands to ask intelligent questions. Later, following at least a dozen braver souls, I raised my own timid hand. To this day, I haven't the slightest idea what my (no doubt naive) question was, but I'll never forget the answer: "Good question, Mr. Witheridge." I practically fell off my chair! This man had memorized, not only my name, but all of our names–every one of them–as if he'd had nothing better to do during the previous 48 hours! I went on to take a number of other philosophy courses at Oberlin, including Professor Care's renowned ethics course, but I'll never forget my first week away from home on a strange and somewhat scary campus" and my first experience with that shy but extraordinarily engaged and caring instructor. He did care, he really did, and I sincerely do not mean that as a pun.
Tom Witheridge '69
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Daniel Merrill's sensitive MEMORIAL MINUTE for Norman S. Care brought me in closer touch with Dr. Care's contributions to both the Oberlin scene and larger philosophical realms. My recollections of Norm stem from his high school years in Gary, Indiana; for as pianist in the very first Norm Care Orchestra (discounting groups of the same name led by his father). I clearly remember dining room rehearsals in which Norm's youthful tact was considerably strained in whipping together our rendition of Five Foot Two. At a later prom engagement, Norm's deep humanity failed him completely as my excessive use of triplet chords in Blue Moon were rewarded with a dandy bean on the head from a flying drumstick! I miss Norm from a perspective less cultivated than those shared by his Oberlin colleagues, but one no less vivid or cherished.
Fred B. Binckes '58
Billings, Montana

Thank you for your remembrance of Norm Care. I can only add that he had a keen sense of wit, and every once in a while some gem would pass from his lips. I remember sitting down to a dinner in a restaurant in Elyria, as part of an Education Commission meeting. Looking out the window, Norm said, "You know, the great thing about America is that no matter where you go, you have a view of the highway." I have tested his observation for the past 25 years or so, and he was right, and not just in Ohio.
Roger Sherman '72
Seattle, Washington

Editor's Note: A Memorial Minute for Norm Care appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of OAM

I was deeply saddened to recently hear of Professor Geoffrey Blodgett's passing. When people inquire how someone with a Judaic and Near Eastern studies major became an urban planner, I invariably mention Professor Blodgett's name. He helped to expose my mind to the fantastic pageant of 19th century American history as well as to architecture – neither, of which I expressed much interest in beneither an advisee of his nor a history major, Professor Blodgett unwittingly gave me food for thought for channeling my altruism. His tales of young educated urban reform-minded Americans at the close of the 19th century, in conjunction with myriad slides of cities, structures, and parks, led me to view the world in a new light. The professions of urban planning and architecture were revealed to have potentially transformative powers. I honestly could never thank him enough for unwittingly disclosing this practical means for achieving my do-gooding dreams. Moreover, his majestic lectures, often reminiscent of wonderful PBS specials, were truly something to behold and treasure. And yet he was utterly humble and always managed to insert some self-effacing levity into his erudition. I'll never forget him for oversleeping on the day of my architecture final (the departmental secretary had to wake him up with a phone call) or "accidentally" sprinkling photos of himself as a dashing young scholar (which showcased why he was deservedly nicknamed "Blod the Bod") in the pages of our reserve readings. I will truly miss this wonderful jovial educator who really embodied the Oberlin spirit of making the world a better and more enlightened place.
Bruce Kaplan, AICP OC '93/4
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Editor's Note: A Memorial Minute for Geoffrey Blodgett appeares in "Losses in the Oberlin Family."

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