Thursday, July 1, 2021

A "Chance" Opportunity That Changed My Life

Since this is the month of July -- the last month I will enjoy as a fulltime teacher before retiring on July 31st -- I thought I'd share a few personal reflections on a 44-year career that has been both richly rewarding and surprisingly happy. 
Dr. Harry Sturz -- I'll begin with him. You've probably never heard the name. Dr. Sturz was the head of the Greek Department at Biola when I arrived there as a freshman in 1971. I ended up taking him for first year Greek when I was a graduating senior -- and promptly dropping the class. Greek was far beyond the ability of a kid from a beach in Hawaii. Or so I thought. 
When I heard that Moody Bible Institute in Chicago offered a very simple correspondence course in Greek (taught on a level than even a dumb kid like me could learn it), I enrolled in Greek 1 and 2, aced both classes, and a year later Dr. Sturz hired me to teach Greek at Biola at the ripe old age of 24. It was a "chance" opportunity but one that changed the course of my life. 
Dr. Sturz devoted his entire life to teaching Greek. He was committed with a capital C and refused to let anything interfere with his strict teaching and mentoring regimen. I'd never known anyone to work that hard for anything, least of all for peons like me. I was amazed by his drive and maturity. I was in awe that he knew what he wanted out of life and that he was determined to make the Greek Department at Biola the finest in the land. Before long, he had taken me under his wings. He must have seen potential in me, because I certainly didn't see any potential in myself. He was responsible for completely changing my study habits. I got to know the beauty of the Greek language through his instruction. He was a kind and paternal man who cared deeply for his students. He infected us with his passion for Greek. He managed to get more out of me than anybody else had in my life. I was the kind of kid who was always making excuses not to do my best. But I liked Harry Sturz and was willing to work for him. He showed interest in me. That meant so much. When you're young, you're always looking for someone who believes in you.

Dr. Sturz thought I showed real potential as a teacher. He would never chastise me or pressure me to be someone I wasn't, but would always say things like, "You'd be a good teacher if you ever became serious about it." And I did become serious. First my teacher and then my colleague, Harry Sturz became one of the most important people in my life then or now. I've never known anyone who worked so hard, loved so deeply, or cared so genuinely. I cannot imagine being where I am today without him.