Three college professors influenced me the most of every teacher I ever had in my life. Donna Evers taught me how to write a news story. I liked her because she loved newspapers like me. She taught us to report the news, when not every story was breaking news. You could smell the ink as soon as you walked through the doors of the Lawton Constitution. The newsroom energy was exhilarating with desk phones ringing, typewriters clanking, and reporters hurrying to meet deadlines. News was Donna Evers world, and in 1983 she taught me about that world in Intro to Journalism at Cameron University. Journalism has changed a lot since then, and I am grateful to have been taught by an old school journalist, and to have been a part of that exciting vibrant culture for a moment in my life.
Larry Shanahan taught me how to write an academic paper. He had to, really. He already liked the way I wrote, and had recommended me for his wife’s honor’s English class when he found out I didn’t know how to write a research paper. In those days the university didn’t even have a writing lab, so he tutored me. He is the reason I know how to research and write an organized paper.
Mary Shanahan taught me how to analyze literature. She believed in authorial intent. She said the writers had a specific message in mind when they wrote a story. When she first walked into Comp II class circa 87, her stance was commanding and fierce. The chatter among the students stopped, and we all looked at her because we could tell she was going to say something we needed to know. She said,
“What important event happened from 1914 to 1918?”
She expected an answer. To everyone’s relief one student knew the answer.
“World War I,” he said with confidence.
“That’s right,” she said. “Do you know why I asked you all that question? Because there are certain things that every educated person needs to know.”
These three professors taught me how to think, so I could filter through the sludge and find the truth.
Mary Shanahan died on May 11, 2016, six days after I finally got my bachelor’s degree in English literature. I would come and go from Nance Boyer hall at Cameron University so many times in 33 years. My memories walked those halls with me every time I was there. I ran down the stairs with Susan Jackson, hurrying off to somewhere, laughing about something. I watched Kevin Bartram develop photos for the Collegian in his darkroom. The Center for Writers is located in the old Collegian offices now. Kevin’s darkroom is their break room now.
I don’t know when the Shanahans left Nance Boyer for the last time. I was gone to Tulsa by then. I walked out for the last time on May 4, 2016. My memories walked out with me. Mary Shanahan ‘s voice always echoed in Nance Boyer. Her presence resonated in the halls and classrooms. I imagine she’s enjoying a dry martini right about now. Thank you, Mrs. Shanahan. I’ll see you when I get there.
Go here to read a poignant tribute written by a family member.