Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Surprising Legacies

     I started my academic career with an appointment to the faculty of Agricultural Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University in 1958. As you might expect I am well into geezer territory. I can't quantify the number of students I taught in a nearly 40 year career. I guess it might be in the thousands, especially since I taught large introductory courses for at least 10 years.  Last night I had the opportunity to present a talk on the evolution of tower silos related to transitions in the dairy industry in Cortland County, New York, my current area of residence.   The talk was promoted by a local historical society centered in McClean, New York.  The audience was an eclectic mix of local residents with deep agricultural roots plus others simply interested in local history.   Ultimately an expanded version of my talk will be an archived publication with the Cortland County Historical Society.  I guess that will remain as a part of my legacy.

    At the above mentioned event another form of my legacy came from a member of the audience. Believe it or not, in the audience was an 82 year old former student.  It was a delightful surprise!   I was overwhelmed by his warm regard for the course he took with me way back 64 years ago. What a heartwarming experience to hear how valuable the course was as he went on to be an extremely successful dairy farmer, now retired form the rigors of a huge dairy which as a legacy he has passed on to his son.  Beyond the wonderful exchange with him was good wishes relayed to me by another member of the audience from another former student whom I advised during his studies at Cornell.

    As a teacher, one doesn't always understand the impact you can have during your teaching career.  Many of your students go off into the world and you never get feedback.  However, every so often there comes and encounter or communication that brings great satisfaction that your efforts as a teacher are not in vain.  It is nice to bask in the successes and remember at the same time to be humble because there are always some students you failed to reach regardless of how hard you tried.


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