Friday, December 01, 2006

Dr. Nancy L. Walker

This morning I opened my inbox to find an email from a stranger, but one who was a friend of a friend. My friend, a beloved one-time teacher, has died.

Nancy Walker taught composition and rhetoric classes for years at Missouri State University, although when Great Scott and I attended her classes and sought her out in her third floor office, MSU was SMSU, Southwest Missouri State University. The transition from one name to another was difficult to make, almost as difficult as trying to imagine the university without her after her retirement a couple of years ago. To try to imagine the world without her will be harder yet. I do not think I can do it. I know I do not wish to. Blessedly, I do not have to. "Everything is to the point," she often said. That saying is only one of many things about her that has become as much a part of me as the permanent callous on the side of my right middle finger, the one worn by the friction of pen against flesh.

We had kept in loose contact over the last 15 years since my leaving all pretense of academia. Great Scott saw her occasionally after he began working again on a master's degree. Only last week I'd emailed her. This morning after reading of her death, I found one of her essays (excerpt below) in the online archives of The Oklahoma Review. She was a most exceptional person. She will be missed beyond measure.

A chickadee (life-span twelve years) chatters at the bird feeder, snatching a sunflower seed to relish on a near-by oak branch. A cardinal (life-span fifteen years) sits on an oak branch while the bluebirds (life-span eight years) dip in the bird bath. A bank of leaves surrounds the still-blooming geraniums -- the inevitable transition from autumn to winter when time goes south slowly.


Anonymous said...

Blessings to you as you remember and honor your friend. I thought I left Denver weather in Denver. :) We closed on our house in Denver last weekend so didn't make it down for T-day. We'll see you and Scott sometime in the next few months when Ann and I get down there.

alaiyo said...

I haven't seen or communicated with Nancy in years, yet I feel the greatest sense of loss I ever have. She showed me that the essay is my strength and her encouragement to pursue writing has formed a significant portion of who I am.

Fieldfleur said...

Yes, she was an outstanding teacher. I treasured the comments that she put on my essays, which I still have around here. She really gave me confidence to experiment too with my writing and take chances.

Thanks for sharing your tribute and the news.


Cindy said...

Ben--Thank you. We'll look forward to getting together, then.

Beth and Teri--She was extraordinary, wasn't she? I loved hearing about her impact on each of you, as well.

Sandy said...

In searching for info on Dr. Walker, I was led here. I've often wondered how she was getting along. It's no stretch to say she was my favorite professor and advisor. I still have some of her wonderful comments on old papers too. Even though I was in her class about 30 years ago, it just hadn't occurred to me that she might be gone. I'm still surprised at the intensity of emotion I'm feeling now. It doesn't seem right that she's gone. There are a great number of students who will never know the pleasure of sitting in one of her classes and that just seems wrong to me. In short...I adored her and will miss her greatly. Thank you for your words.