I did not look at the picture of Hank Gathers that appeared on the front page of Monday's Times. I prefer to remember him as I knew him--a shy, smiling college freshman, a little less sure of himself in the classroom than on the basketball court. Thrust onto the center stage that is USC athletics, I remember him, and others, coming to class that first day late and hesitant. Being an athlete was not an excuse for not being a student, I told them. He listened.
That was the last time Hank was ever late or hesitant. If he did not have the highest SAT scores or the surest reading and writing skills, he had something better: a willingness and desire to learn all that he could. After that first day, he'd bound into class, sit up straight, stare at me, and say, "OK, Teach, teach me something new today."
For all of us in English 101 and 102--particularly Bo, Rich, Tom and myself--the loss of Hank Gathers has nothing to do with the number of points scored or projections of bright NBA futures. His loss is more immediate and personal, immeasurable because it is of one of our own.