Into that good night.
I want to extend my sympathy to Peggy Heller’s family, friends, and colleagues. It’s heart-wrenching to learn of her loss. I graduated in 2001 and now live in Vancouver, and so I have not seen Peggy in many years. I did not know she was ill, and learned of her passing with shock.
As a professor, Peggy was all of the things mentioned here: warm, inspiring, willing to reach out to students. My sharpest memory is a conversation about Marx in Q of A, in which she asked a question — did one need to take the ideas of a thinker as a whole, or could you reject the parts that didn’t resonate, that were equivocal or rang false to one’s own experience. I still deeply appreciate the way that she laid this out a topic with which she was grappling herself, rather than as a question to which she had an authoritative answer. I remember Peggy as having a great respect for history but also as willing to bring a challenge to the table. As a student, this gave me permission to explore my own thorny issues in an authentic way.
With Peggy, I did not feel buried under the weight of a text. I think there was something in the way her approach was very human and humble, but there was still a potency to that combination.
I will count these experiences as part of the legacy of Peggy’s teaching. She left me feeling stronger and more courageous, with a sense that my mental inquiry could start from within, and that from my own struggles and intuitions I could perhaps arrive at a place of insight.
It is frustrating to realize that in four years of contact I can only (at this moment) excavate this one strong image, along with a hazy amalgamated memory of many pithy statements made in the Senior Common Room. But as I peer into my own mind, the cadence of her speech, and her body language come back — a bright expression in her eyes and a bit of bite into the statement she has just delivered. A general sense of warmth and ease, a directness.
I will miss Peggy, and I am terribly sorry that she was taken from us so soon. I am very moved to think that she has touched so many, and I am proud to count myself among her students.
- June 24 2011 | - Read More →