A few years ago, a student came to me to express concerns about a professor.
The student, a very conservative Republican, was worried that a political science professor, who had worked in Democrats’ offices in Washington, D.C., would not appreciate her expressing her opinions in class.
I didn’t know her professor super well, but had worked with him and thought he would be open minded. I assured the student that he would probably prefer that she express herself—that most professors prefer students who care enough about the class topic to engage in discussion.
We were walking and talking, heading towards Basile Hall where I was going to teach and she was going to attend her political science class. Her professor was coming down the hall from the other direction, and when he saw her, he grinned and said: “Look—here comes the voice of reason.”
Now, said the wrong way, maybe with scorn or sarcasm, those words would have cut deeply and reinforced the student’s concerns. But, they were said with warmth and genuine humor, by a jolly man with a twinkle in his eye. The student laughed. David Doerge laughed. They headed off to class, where, I’m sure, the discussion was lively, but David probably loved every minute.
It’s all in the delivery, and David could deliver. He was irrepressible at faculty meetings where you had to beware of his funny, rambling side commentary. He was an active faculty member, serving in leadership roles and adding an important, distinct voice to discussions. He was good to work with on special projects or committees. We started at MMU in the same year and I think he was a star of the class of the fall of 01.
He and I didn’t always agree, although I think we agreed more often than we disagreed, but even when David and I were in opposite camps, his point of view was always insightful and his ideas always worth listening to.
He wanted to think things out. He wanted full discussion. His was a probing mind and a sharp wit.
And he will be deeply missed. The news this weekend was that David has died.
What a shock. His energy and humor seemed boundless, and for his voice to be still feels deeply wrong.
Still, I know many others—his family and life partner, for example—feel the pain much more personally and painfully. Any discomfort I feel is but a faint echo, and I wish them healing in their time of loss.
I know that my own fantasy of David’s afterlife reflects my perspective and not his, but bear with me. If I were in charge of Heaven, I wouldn’t look too closely at David’s credentials. I would direct Saint Peter to let him in just for the pure entertainment value.
Besides being smart, David was also sharply funny. I wish I could recall some of his zingers to repeat, but honestly the few that come to mind probably are best left unrecorded here. Let’s just say that David could not help but poke fun at the pomposity of the powers that be.
Anyway, back to my fantasy. God sends a memo to Saint Peter, telling him to let David Doerge pass the pearly gates. David walks up and Peter spies him, winks at him and gives him a mischievous grin.
“Look,” he says. “Here comes the voice of reason.”