October 31, 2013

A Silenced Cackle: A Little Tribute to Dr. Bob Dardenne

My advisor and professor in my graduate program would tell me how much he loved The Cutting Edge movies in every one-on-one conversation we had, and how they were his favorite movies. With such a dry sense of humor and being such an experienced journalist and professor, I never knew if he was being serious, sarcastic, or somewhere in between. I'm deeply saddened to know that I now will never know the answer for sure with his sudden and shocking passing. But talking about The Cutting Edge with Dr. Dardenne when I really needed legitimate help will always be one of many fond memories from the unique USFSP Journalism and Media Studies graduate program experience. Some fun facts and memories of Bob Dardenne:

  • He was the first person I met in the department when I was so nervous to start a graduate program and a new chapter of my life. 
  • He sent e-mails either in all lower case or ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, and he insisted that he was not shouting in those latter e-mails, even though those letters came through the screen so aggressively. 
  • When we had discussions or gave oral presentations in class, it looked as if he was taking notes, but he was actually doodling elaborate drawings that filled pages as he listened. He had notebooks full of these intricate doodles. 
  • He typically called everyone by their last names in class, except when he was in an extra feisty mood, he'd refer to students along the lines of "you there in the back" or "the pretty young lady in the corner."
  • As my secondary advisor for my applied research project for completion of the program, he questioned if my project was actually journalism when I thought I was nearly finished. Although his e-mail (in all lower case letters) gave me one last nervous breakdown before graduation, it is just one example of how he always questioned and pushed us to do the best work we could.
  • One night after class during my first semester, many of us, including Dr. Dardenne, went to the campus tavern for some beers. After one drink, he singled me out in the conversation and said I needed to speak up more in class. He continued that he would start the following week's class by giving me five minutes to speak, just me. He gave me no topic or direction, just five minutes for me to speak. As that class approached, I become more rattled about what the hell I would say for five minutes. I don't remember what thoughts I put together - it was probably related to our reading - but I prepared something. I was ready-ish. Class came and he never asked me to take those five minutes. Maybe he forgot, maybe he was joking (like he was about The Cutting Edge?), but that confrontation at the tavern made me conscious of how much I spoke in every class, and the wheels in my mind churned each week to think of something valuable to say as part of class discussion. 
  • He was one of those professors that told it like it was - no sugar coating, just his honest thought. 

While I am sad that I will never know how Dr. Dardenne truly felt about The Cutting Edge, the mystery will stay with me and remind me of what a great professor he was and the conversations we had. Regardless of his opinions on the films, it was his way of connecting with me on a personal level with my obscure sport. It not only lightened my mood when I went to his office stressed, but it also encouraged me to embrace my love and knowledge for sport and use it in the work I did in the program. I learned so much from him and he'll be greatly missed. I hope he knew how much he taught so many people, and that his stories and knowledge are still with us.

Teachers are some of the most important people in our lives, even if we never see them again after our course or grade is completed. And when we're finished with them, I imagine they stay frozen in the way I remember them. I know that can't be, but I irrationally think of my teachers always being alive while I am, since they had such an impact. It's jarring to face such important teachers' mortality, but their lessons carry on. Maybe I should watch The Cutting Edge now.

Thanks for the lessons! We're masters now!