The number one factor of student success in college is attending class.
The statement above may not seem to be very profound, until you consider it is still burned in my mind from five years ago. There have been two men during the course of my academic career who have provided guidance through the intense, often confusing journey through the halls of academia. Over the course of my undergraduate and graduate education, I attended two institutions. I was able to find a close friend and mentor at both.
At Georgia Military College, the man was Edward Shelor. This retired Marine Lt. Colonel turned history professor not only was able to bring his personal experiences into the classroom and make the material come alive, but also welcomed students into his office to sit and talk about history, politics (aka, history in the making), and educational topics in general. I’ve had the chance not only to get to know him, but also his sister and niece through working campaigns. As such, he’s grown to be not only a professional and educational mentor, but as a member of my extended family.
Once I transferred to Georgia College, I met the man I’d annoy for the next four years (and counting) quite by accident. My first class was supposed to be with Dr. Womack, but she had some health issues that semester. So, one Prof. Wilkinson fill in for the first half of the course. Now, known simply as W, he has been a constant source of advice, and not all of it was good. 🙂
The man is known for his pranks. While I never was sent to the airport to pickup “someone” (who turned out to be a skeleton from a closing doctor’s office) or had flowers sent to someone on my behalf, he still managed to give me a hard time. More than once I went to meet him for lunch (and sometimes dinner), and instead walked into a perfectly setup blind date with someone who typically either had major religious differences, already had a boyfriend, or in some cases, a girlfriend.
But, this was also the guy who convinced me to attend my first academic conference, who talked me into presenting a conference paper as a senior instead of waiting until I got to grad school, and the first one who actually told me to go ahead and do the thesis. During one of the most depressing times I’ve endured, following the election of 2006, he convinced me to get my application in for the Georgia Legislative Intern Program, one of the best experiences of my life.
His office is always open to his students, and to those who wish they were his students. It is known simply as Club W. If you walk by, be prepared for it to be full or overflowing. He oftentimes reminds me of the pied piper by the number of people who follow him around. He may have an idiosyncrasy or two (or a dozen, there’s a reason I didn’t use his full name) but he was a constant source of encouragement (and old style soft peppermint) during my time at GCSU, and since.
He doesn’t talk much about his past, which has led to some interesting speculation by some of the students. My personal favorite is that is the basis of the Most Interesting Man in the World of the Dos Equis commercials.
Tomorrow, a man I grew up alongside. We’ve been responsible for sending each other to the emergency room, and yet, we are as close as brothers.