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Forty-four years later

By Mike Ruffin In September 1975, I entered Mercer University as a freshman. Mercer followed the quarter system back then, so three courses constituted a full load. Two of my first three courses were held in Knight Hall. I was a Christianity major and Greek minor, and Knight Hall housed both of those departments. During my Mercer career, I took, as best I can recall, nineteen classes in that building’”all of my Christianity and Greek courses, plus three Sociology classes and one course each in Philosophy and Political Science. I will always be grateful for what I learned in that building from Professors Giddens, Otto, McManus, Youman, Evans, Quimbao, Albritton, Brown, and Johnson. I graduated from Mercer in 1978. In the years since, I’ve been back in Knight Hall a handful of times. Last week, I walked into Knight Hall as an Adjunct Professor. I’m teaching a course called ‘Engaging the New Testament.’ I’ve been teaching part-time for Mercer over the last few years. To this point, all of my classes have been through what until recently was called Penfield College (they just changed the name to the College of Professional Advancement; I’ll keep calling it Penfield to save energy and words). I enjoy teaching with Penfield. The students are mainly what we used to call ‘non-traditional.’ They’re working adults who usually come directly from their places of employment to take four-hour long night classes. I admire their dedication and am honored to work with them. This is the first time I’ve taught in the Religion (formerly Christianity) Department in the College of Liberal Arts in Macon. Most of the students in this class are freshmen. They just finished high school in May. They’re young. In our first class meeting, I promised my students I wouldn’t bore them throughout the semester with ‘back when I was a Mercer student’ stories. But I said I was going to bore them this one time. I proceeded to tell them about how I made the long journey (less than forty miles, but it seemed long to me) from Barnesville to Macon. I told them about how nervous’”scared, even’”I was about whether or not I could succeed in college. I told them about how my mother had died in May before I entered Mercer in September. I told them about how Mercer had changed my life. I told them about how much my professors meant to me. I told them about how I met my Good Wife there. I told them how grateful I was to share in their educational experience. I told them some of my story. I don’t know their stories yet. I hope I get to learn at least a little about who they are. I hope their experience at Mercer is as life-changing as mine was. I hope I make a small contribution to it. I hope that, if and when they remember me forty-four years down the road, they’ll feel a little bit of gratitude. I hope they’ll remember me with a smile.

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