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What a treat to open the Review and see an opinion piece by Geoff Smith. The anticipation of his possible return to the classroom with History 273 is even nicer.
Thirty years ago, I was a recent grad of Trent University – at that time, a vibrant, somewhat bohemian environment. After years of individual attention and the luxury of a range of interesting and challenging history courses, I felt bereft. When I arrived at Queen’s, the sight of the dismal History Department building was worsened with a look at the graduate course calendar.
Then I met Professor Geoff Smith. I explained to him that I didn’t really see much that interested me in terms of graduate courses. Sensing my ambivalence and disappointment, he was cheerful and said that it might be a good idea for me to join History 273 as a tutor, along with two other much more impressed and keen fellow Trent grads.
Smith’s lecturing style and enthusiasm along with endless advice about essay-writing attracted huge numbers of students into that second-year course. Not only did students attend the lectures, they actually listened, took notes, occasionally laughed, and then, rather than racing for the doors when the 50 minutes were up, they all hung around for an extra chat. Once students were into the course, Smith was then able to set demanding research and writing standards. His students wanted to attend the lectures, which in turn, inspired them to excel in their own work.
When he was in a philosophical and mentoring mood, Smith would often sit back and declare that if one started to work by 6 am and worked until 2 pm, the rest of the day would be free. This is how he managed to publish, attend sports and social events, stay close to his family, photograph, paint, write letters to the Globe and Mail, and still leave his office door open.
Any new offering of History 273 would be filled to capacity.