Today I learned that Vickie Smith, an English professor at ACU, passed away. She was diagnosed with cancer recently, something like a week or two ago. Many of you know that I spent a lot of years in that English department as an undergraduate major, a graduate student, and then as faculty, and though I never took a class with Vickie (I had credit for my first-year English courses, which is what she taught), I was blessed by her in many ways: her sense of humor, the way she lived out her faith, her passion and talent for teaching. She was a master at freshman composition and literature courses, and she was happy to share what she knew with those of us who were learning to teach. She showed me that a teacher can be demanding and rigorous and still be nurturing and beloved. She was a tremendous blessing all of us who knew her, and her absence, I know, will be keenly and frequently felt.
And now I’m missing my English Department family more than usual, and also thinking about what a blessing the whole department has been in my life. I don’t think I would have ever been brave enough to come here without the instruction and love and encouragement I found with them. They helped me to find my voice, indeed myself, as a student and scholar and writer and tutor and teacher and as a person.
It’s a bittersweet blessing that I count today.