written by Jenny Hoy, a former student
I was lucky. He wasn’t just my teacher, he was also my tennis coach, and in most respects, my mentor. Even today, I call him or email him with simple questions of good teaching , how to guide a wayward student back onto the path of academia, or how to deal with complexities of day-to-day life. And, he always does it with a story.
One of my first memories of him was in a large college lecture hall. The room was large with stark white walls. I was sitting near the front with a clear view of the green chalkboard, with my legs swinging back and forth, because they didn’t touch the floor. The auditorium was filled with students listening to his booming voice tell the story of how the world stopped on November 22, 1963. He was professor of the year, and his class was full. Students were furiously taking notes, yet were not afraid to ask questions. Although I sat silently, I would look at my scribbles and know they were meaningless compared to his words. I think this was the moment I fell in love with stories. He made a very complicated, scary moment so clear through the simple act of telling a story.
It should be no surprise to anyone who has ever met me that I was never the tallest of students and it bothered me a great deal for a very long time. I mentioned this once to him in passing and he asked me what I was going to do about it. I replied with frustration that I couldn’t do anything about it; it was just the way I am. He said, “Exactly! You can’t change it, so don’t worry about it. However, your strength of character should be the largest presence in any room you enter. If you can achieve this, your physical height will never be an issue.” As difficult as this task sounds, it is a thousand times more difficult to achieve. I can’t say that I’ve been perfect, but it is something to which I aspire. He does it daily, seemingly without effort; but I know from my own experiences, it requires a level of faith in myself that is so overwhelming; yet this ideal gives me the courage each day to stand up for what I know is right. This mind set allows me to live a life free from many of the stresses that might result from “convenient decisions” rather than the sometimes more difficult paths I chose.
I remember winning my first tennis tournament and jumping up and down with joy, until I saw him frowning at me. I danced across the court to ask him what the problem was, after all I did win! He said that part of sportsmanship is to lose with grace, but to also win with humility. My behavior did not reflect his philosophy and he would prefer if I would show some respect to my opponent and not gloat! Many years later, ever the historian, he wrote a book about the history of sports in America. He dedicated it to his three sports-loving granddaughters, with this explanation in his acknowledgments: May they learn the importance of competing hard within the rules, and understand that the inevitable setbacks they will encounter—in sports and beyond—must be a prelude to trying harder and preparing for the next challenge. His use of sports as a metaphor for life is never-ending. What he taught me on the tennis courts has carried into my daily life. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m relentless and don’t give up until the last point is played. I’m competitive, always with a drive to win; but only within the rules. Although, I have been known to make a few “close” line calls! And when I lose, count on me being right back in the game the next day ready to find a way to win.
Over the years, he’s been called Mr. Davies, Coach Davies, Professor Davies, Dr. Davies, Dean Davies, Vice President Davies, and for a short while, on a Colorado campus, President Davies. To a few special students, he is simply known as Doc; but, to me, he’s always been just Dad.