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A tribute to Drew Dillon

Mar 29, 2016
by Beth Masters, ’87

Dr. Andrew Dillon, one of Flagler College’s earliest professors, passed away on Nov. 5, 2015, after a lengthy battle with cancer. The English professor joined the college’s faculty in 1972. A book of Dillon’s poetry, “Vital Signs,” was published last summer by Flagler College.

Are you haunted by the memory of a lousy teacher in your life? Many of us have experienced one or two along our educational road.

Some teachers may have managed to leave a fading scar, but others, as it should be, manage to heal those scars and build us up. One of those teachers for me, and so many others, was Dr. Andrew Dillon.  

Dr. Dillon in his enthusiastic brilliance was able to build a bridge for me to cross over to his side to share in his joy of literature and poetry. To understand Shakespeare, practically a foreign language to this 20-year-old student, and to come to appreciate it and then revel in it, was more than a collegiate awakening. It was a portal to a new way of understanding literature, yes, but it was also a front row seat to a brilliant teacher knowing just how to transcend the gap between those who know and those who don’t. Professors can sometimes be so knowledgeable about their subject matter, but not be able to bridge the gap between their knowledge and the students’ lack thereof. Dr. Dillon was never that man.  

He reached out and grabbed you with the cackle of a witch, or running crazed into class barefoot screaming, “Thou shouldst not have been old til thou hadst been wise” from King Lear, or jumping up on a desk to scream, “Out damn spot!“ on behalf of poor Lady Macbeth; explaining what a cuckold was and other peculiar new words that made the story so much more fun; and on a rare occasion, ending class by walking right out the door at the end of a soliloquy that spoke for itself. And if you were lucky, you watched a swashbuckling sword fight of one. He built a bridge.    

And if you weren’t so quick to get it, he was to be found in his office, door wide open to welcome you in. Often lying on the floor working on his own words of poetry, he would help you sort out your own. I always appreciated that one-on-one time. It’s when you could ask the question you didn’t want to ask in class. It’s when you saw the twinkle in his eye amidst a tall stack of papers to grade.

Relishing these memories of an extraordinary teacher is important for me because I am now a teacher myself. Memories of his class resonate with me. I know when I look out at my little 9- and 10-year-olds, and when they look back at me, eager to hear the next story about vile Vikings or plucky William the Conqueror.

In small quantity, his ways have become my ways, and I, too, am a bridge builder. Thank you, Dr. Dillon. You instilled this in me and I am forever grateful.

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