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Remembering a Great Teacher

by Robert O. Wyatt

He was known respectfully as Zeus. Never as God—that would be blasphemous at a Christian college. Just plain Zeus. Zeus and Hera, the students called him and his beloved wife, Eleanor.

I heard upperclassmen debate whether there was anything that English professor Charles Trawick Harrison (Zeus) did not know. They argued that his character was so spotless that he had never sinned in his entire life. As a freshman in 1964 at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., I may have been a bit skeptical. As a senior, I was increasingly certain his admirers were mostly right.

For him, teaching literature was not just a profession but a way of life. He was beloved and respected because he taught with authority and with the deep faith that reading the best that had been thought and said by the great literary figures would make all of his students, if not richer, then smarter. Above all, it would make them better—better friends, better citizens, better human beings. And he had compassion for his students, compassion for them as human beings. In my mind’s eye, only Jesus was a greater teacher.

The Rev. Robert O. Wyatt is rector of St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in suburban Chicago. His doctoral dissertation at Northwestern University (1973) examined Shakespeare’s evolving understanding of the doctrine of providence from the early histories through the tragedies, centering on Hamlet and Lear.

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