remembering another I did not know….

Tonight I attended a memorial service for Malcom Quantrill. I really didn’t know him, but from the things my colleagues have relayed to me since I arrived here in Texas, he was a very thoughtful, very generous, professor.

I had known he was no ordinary professor of course, I learned he was one of the very very few Distinguished Professors walking the grounds of Texas A&M and the only Distinguished Professor ever named in the College of Architecture.

One of the people who spoke about him tonight also did not know him, but “knew” him through the light in the eyes of his bride and through the character, strength, and quality of his children.

That struck me. I had known him because he spoke up for young faculty, had extended his umbrella of achievement to support the success of young scholars and architects. That is why I attended. I did not know this man, but I believed him to have been a good man.

It turns out I had a number of his books in my library. I’d read them, some a long time ago, but had not connected the power of the words and ideas with the distinguished fellow I’d been introduced to briefly during my interview a few years ago. His work stands with other great theoreticians and critics of our time, a superstar really, but tonight he was remembered as a husband, a father and a mentor.

I’ve been thinking about my life a bit lately (…yes…again…) wondering, sometimes out loud, if I had accomplished what I was intended to, asking myself partly if I was “done” and what I might do next. I’ve lost some of the firm ground I used to depend on this past year or so, made some discoveries about people in my past that undermined my trust in my judgment. This is mostly a problem during quiet moments when I have the sense I should be doing something more or something important. It never once creeps into my mind once I enter the classroom. Not because I contribute that much in the classroom but it is filled with sooo many possibilities! It is the place where we all think publicly, sometimes at the end of a pen, or with pixels, or with words but we all think publicly in the classroom. A marvel really.

Our Dean spoke tonight at the memorial, and spoke very well, observing that Malcom was uniquely gifted to be able to provoke and nurture conversations with wit and challenge in an effortless way. I’ve experienced this in the past, sitting in the living room of Professor Olivio Ferrari surrounded by students, faculty, and books, Professor Ferrari had a way of directing questions that would both stimulate and guide the discussion to achieve what I now believe to be a designed end for both students and faculty. It amazes me to think people like Malcom and Olivio could unravel an outcome across multiple people with multiple questions to effectively construct a lecture on the fly…and not really talk much themselves!

Lost my point there but…

Tonight one of the readings was a poem from Herbert titled “Love Bade Me Welcome.” It also struck me but for different reasons.

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

— George Herbert

I’m trying to learn what to do next, what if anything I want, or might deserve… Love is something that’s hard to ask for, and sometimes harder to accept it seems.

Professor Quantrill’s obituary may be found here:

An excellent paper on Professor Ferrari’s influence on architectural education may be found here:

Let me end this ramble by thanking the super professors like Malcom and Olivio…you’ve left the rest of us reaching for a bar that may never come into reach, but seems worth a lifetime of trying.

Take Care, be kind to each other, honor the honorable when they pass.

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