Monday, August 14, 2006

Tom Gerencher, Rest...

E-mail came in at 2:11 this afternoon to say that Tom had died this morning. The finest teacher I ever had, the fabled high school mentor who made all the difference. He was... for a while there he was everything in my life. Taught me how to write, how to think. Books, books, books.

He was walking around the track at the school and had a heart attack. It's fitting, I suppose, that he died there. He graduated from the school himself and came back after college to teach literature and media (which essentially boiled down to all Beatles, all the time). This would have been his 34th year there, if memory serves. He commanded respect and not a little fear, but allowed students to call him by his first name. My early papers were handed back with so much red ink on them they looked like they'd been used to mop up a car wreck. My later papers were college level writing and clean.

We kept in touch over the years, primarily through Christmas cards. My consolation is that I did make sure to tell him exactly how much he meant to me and how important his touch on my life has been. Hardly a day goes by that I don't think of him or some lesson he taught me. He's in my head always.

Godspeed, Tom, and God help St. Peter if he stammers and says "um..." at the pearly gates, or tries to pass off an uninformed bias as a well-supported argument.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very Beautiful. I have been searching for more information and found your blog. I too live out of state now and had three people contact me regarding the sad news. It is a testament to his character and teaching skills.

-Student, Class of 2000

Anonymous said...

American Lit Honors. Media. The early 80's. Looking back after all these years on memories of Mr. Gerencher (I could never get myself to call him "Tom") he is one of the very few teachers in my life who inspired me to give a damn about what I was doing. He made it seem worthwhile. By coincidence I'll be back in South Bend next week and I was looking forward to dropping by St. Joe and showing my daughters my picture on Mr. Gerencher's wall and maybe introducing him to my family. I had planned on making the trip a few weeks ago, but life intervened. Now it is too late to say hello. He died at a place he loved and where he kick-started many young minds into thinking hard about things that truly matter. That is his legacy. He was a teacher in the truest sense of the word. And that is opinion, not prejudice.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to end my comment with my name. Gerencher would have docked me an entire letter-grade for that.

Brendan Bellina '84

Anonymous said...

Very nicely said. I couldn't agree more.

Kathee Keller Kiesselbach said...

I had him for Media for two semesters. Great class! We made movies and I learned so much. Diane Wendt, David Veldman... He will be greatly missed...

Anonymous said...

Brendan said everything that needed to be said and everything I was thinking! I missed Mr. Gerencher at a friend's (katie van ryn) funeral 10 years back and always thought i'd have another opportunity to thank him.

tish
class of '83 american lit honors & media

Anonymous said...

I had Tom for media, but what I will remember most about him was his respect for the outcasts and dissidents.
He will be missed.
JHR.
'VI

Leisa Heintzelman said...

I stumbled upon this, like everyone, I suppose, googling and looking for answers. Why God? Why him? Why now? He was just discussing the pathetic state of the American education system w/ my classmate at our 20-year reunion less than 2 weeks ago. He wanted to know what Washington State specifically was doing about it all. And my friend had answers. And he was providing support for his argument. And Mr. Gerencher was going to take a look. I'm convinced that he could have fixed it. If anyone could have righted the wrongs of a screwed up system, it was he. How we - and generations to come - have been robbed. And how lucky and blessed we were to have known the man and the world he showed us.

Kathleen Lyon '85 said...

Thanks for your lovely posts here and at the Kaniewski website (my tribute should be up there shortly). How blessed we all were to have known and learned from him! I, too, find myself thinking of his lessons often, though most often it’s when distinguishing between opinion and prejudice, thinking about “what is fair” (something that comes up a lot now that I’m a lawyer) and, dammit, every time I am tempted to use the word “virtually,” the mantra “in essence, but not in fact” keeps running through my mind!

I so wish I could’ve made it to the funeral today, but it’s some comfort to know that there were so many people there who loved him that there wasn’t room for me anyway. But there will be a candle burning for him tonight at National Cathedral. You’re right, he doesn’t need it, and like you I’m not the good Catholic girl I was 22 years ago, but since I’m in D.C., well, Only The Best for him, so National Cathedral it is.

Later, I’ll pull out my dog-eared copy of Young Goodman Brown – the same copy we read in class, which I tore out of the book and stapled together before tossing the rest of the book aside (it was literally falling apart) – and revel in it one more time, as I've done almost every year since first reading it. Several years ago I visited one of my brothers in Boston (who also had him for Am Lit Honors) and we made the pilgrimage to Salem. I sent Mr. Gerencher a picture of me standing, a la Vanna White, outside Hawthorne’s home. He got a kick out of that.

alchemist said...

Thanks for posting this...I just heard the news today and found your site via Google. I had Tom for American Lit/Honors and for Media. (I graduated in 1986)

We kept Journals in American Lit and he would read them and respond to us...we could write about anything. He taught me how to think, how to express myself, and generally how to be a person. Over the years he's given me bits of good advice when I needed it, as I know he has for so many others.

I was in Salem & Lexington just last month, and kept thinking of him, and how he'd "tsk" me for not making time to see Walden while I was there.

Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I had gone back to South Bend last week for Thanksgiving and found out that Mr. Gerencher had passed on. I did take his Media class and at one time I was part of the three percent who did not go onto college after graduation. He was a rare person indeed who treated everyone equal no matter what their backgound was. I will miss him.

Class of 1989