On March 20, 1996 I completed my last undergraduate class at UC Santa Barbara. Notably, I finished a quarter early — thanks to a handful of advanced placement courses in high school (and by petitioning to have some classes count for several requirements — strategy!).
My last class was English 40, English Literature 1800 to 1900, with Eloise Knapp Hay. Sadly, this was her last class as well: she passed away a few weeks later on April 30, 1996 of inoperable brain cancer.
None of us knew she was sick nor would we have believed it had she told us. Incidentally, the author of her obituary, Frank McConnell — another teacher I had at UCSB — died three years after her. In class we mainly studied the works of romantic poets such as William Wordsworth and William Blake — in whose honor I launched “William Blake: Cybersongs of Innocence.”
It was also the last class for another student: we completed our final exams at the same time and we lingered in the hallway just outside of the classroom. I had a large brownie and, perhaps in an act of poetic preparation, she had a small bottle of champagne.
We celebrated our achievement in a platonic way befitting the class. We shared the brownie and champagne while reminiscing about our undergraduate experiences and discussing our post-graduation plans. It was a bohemian way to finish our romantic poetry class and our undergraduate college experience.
This date is also bittersweet because, while it marks a positive milestone, it also signifies my first step towards a time in my life that was often wrought with challenges and obstacles.
Thankfully, as a result of ongoing introspection and guidance from friends and colleagues, I am now aligned with my purpose in life: education. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been presented by institutions at which I am now teaching, have taught, or one day will teach. Each one gives me a unique perspective on teaching and allows me to work with exceptional students with bright futures.
Most importantly each one also allows me to continue learning. And so, despite my mixed feelings about the years after I graduated, I look forward to the coming years with hope and optimism.
So, I’ve got a brownie — who has the champagne?