As I walk for the first time through the halls of Ackerman, I suddenly began to hear an outburst of whispers; whispers that could not be identified as part of a single language, a noise that could only make sense to those who knew what Humanities 113 was all about. A room full of citizens of the world cautiously waiting for the professor to arrive, while strategically grouping in terms of continental identity. Asian students rigorously studying even before the syllabus was handed out; confuse Americans in need of an extra credit, Europeans trying to adopt American accents, while Islanders and Latinos competed for the prize of unpunctuality. At the center on this chaotic yet fantastic multicultural universe, stood a man who believed in life and therefore he taught.
Gerry was a man who believed in orienting the youth beyond the borders of conventional teacher-student relations. Someone who’s idea of teaching culture meant taking a bus full of students to the Round Up rodeo while discussing the Zapatista movement in Chiapas on the way there. A man addicted to The New Yorker, cross-country ski, and unfiltered cigarettes. A booklover who dreamt about Raskolnikov’s moral dilemmas, Coronel Aureliano Buendia’s Macondo, and the prodigious insanity of Julio Cortazar. Dylan, Tom Waits, Bob Marley. A bohemian idealist who consciously decided to believe in heroes, and even make us believe that we could become heroes as well.
I studied at Eastern thanks to an invitation from Professor McNamee who asked me to visit one his classes during fall 2002. As an outsider I found in Gerry a mentor, always willing to “show me the ropes,” while excitingly waiting to hear from stories of Maestro Toledo in Oaxaca. As time went by Gerry became not only my mentor, but also my friend. He always gave a lot and asked little in return. I still remember the Apple ad that he posted at the entrance of his office: “Think Different.” That is all he ever wanted from me; to be willing to explore life without judgments, to fight with conviction for my beliefs, and to learn how to love beyond the borders of institutionalism.
Gerry and I often discussed the cultural differences about death between Mexican tradition and American culture. He took extra time for me to learn how to properly use common expressions such as “Kick the bucket” and “Hanging the gloves.” In return he made me present on several occasions on the particularities of the Mexican holiday “Dia de Muertos.” He just loved the idea of having a free-pass once a year, to visit the living once you are no longer around. I suppose we should all be aware on November first, just in case he decides to make use of this tradition.
A mentor never dies unless his lessons are forgotten; a teacher lives eternally through the knowledge that he shares with others. Those of us, who had the privilege of having Gerry in our lives, will miss the friend but keep his legacy forever close to us. Gerald McNamee will live eternally in the memory and heart of humanity.
Mauricio Mireles |
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
June 28, 2009 back to Gerry McNamee memorial