The Power of One
A life well lived: one person can quietly impact the lives of many.
This week my favorite professor from college passed away. His passing has prompted me to think about the power one person can have in positively influencing the people around him.
Edward Stettner was an exceptional person: wise, kind, modest and (infinitely) patient . He was never flashy, always dependable, compassionate, supportive, and influenced me in beneficial ways that I still continue to appreciate many years later.
In my four years at college, I often ran into his office all fired up, either from enthusiasm or indignation, talking a mile a minute. The state of the world, some new thing I’d discovered about Plato or Hobbes, some injustice I’d uncovered… Professor Stettner sat like a stone in the wind waiting for me to blow myself out. Then, he’d quietly suggest something that would bring perspective, and calm cogent thinking would ensue. In those four years he did that countless times, and over time I learned to do it myself.
He was always formal – it never occurred to me to call him anything other than Professor Stettner. He was never overly personal – I don’t recall ever talking to him about boyfriends, parties, or trivia. He encouraged me, but was never pushy or imposed his own agenda. Importantly, he found ways to help me to pursue my interests within the college structure, either through courses or independent study, as well as outside school, encouraging me to spend a summer in Washington DC and to return for graduate study at Cambridge University. .
At a time when people strive to self-brand, to make a name, to gain more Klout, I look back and realize he was never like that. First and foremost, above all else, he was a teacher.
He was a solid and steady force in the turbulence of the odd transitional time of college, and I have never taken for granted how lucky I was to have him as my professor.
In his more than 40 years of teaching, Professor Stettner touched the lives of many like mine. His impact is, above all, a reminder of the power of one person. It is also an illustration of the value of educators. Many of us can harken back to a teacher or professor who has had a transformative effect.
One person can make a difference in the lives of those around him or her, and that is something to be cherished and remembered as we all carry on.