Dr. O. Dean Gregory, 1927-2000

October 2003

Memories of O. Dean Gregory from John
by John Fanselow

Remembering Dr. Gregory
by John Brewer

Not the Last Word
by Margaret Scheirman

Dr. Gregory's Example
by Robb Scott

My Memories of Dr. O. Dean Gregory
by Kenji Kitao

Career Foundation
by Warren Roby

In Memory of Dr. Dean Gregory
by Kazunori Nozawa

O. Dean Gregory Festschrift
on the ESL MiniConference

/ Index /
/ Letters /
/ Search /

O. Dean Gregory Festschrift
O. Dean Gregory Festschrift

Not the Last Word
Contributed by Margaret Scheirman

To put the following reminiscences in context: I was a graduate student in applied linguistics (English as a second language) at the University of Kansas with Dr. Gregory as my faculty advisor, one of my professors, my director at the Applied English Center when I first taught there as a T.A., and later, my thesis advisor, and ultimately, my colleague at the AEC, encompassing several school years between 1979 and 1986. Now, some 23 years after it all began, I am thankful to still be active as a full-time ESL educator at the Minnesota English Center at the University of Minnesota.

When I think of Dr. Gregory, I think of all kinds of "firsts" and "lasts," but mostly "firsts." I had my first graduate course in ESL methodology in the fall of 1979 from Dr. Gregory. Even the very first day of that course imprinted itself forever in my memory, as I sat entranced along with the rest of the students arranged horse-shoe style with Dr. Gregory in front of us in the center of the room sharing with us his experiences in Indonesia and much, much more. He spoke of the emotional challenges of teaching cross-culturally, as well as of the need always to be ready to make do with any set of circumstances and supplies. For example, he told us, when in Indonesia, he learned to teach present progressive with the help of live chickens running through the classroom! I got the point: I must be prepared to put my students' learning first, and to see the glass as half full in any teaching position. And in fact, over the years since, such a perspective has been one of my assets as an ESL educator. Thanks, Dr. Gregory.

In another graduate course that I took with him a year or so later, I had my first exposure to two life-changing books which were required for the course: Earl Stevick’s Memory, Meaning, and Method; and Adaptation in Language Teaching by Madsen and Bowen. Ever since, I have been known as a teacher who will cheerfully work with any book . . . thanks to his showing us through these resources that we need never be bound only by what we see on a page in front of us! Thanks, Dr. Gregory!

During that course, I had my first exposure to phonetic transcription of English . . . produced by Dr. Gregory himself as page after page of beautifully hand-done calligraphy! Lesson learned: be ready to use all your talents in teaching as they are needed. Who else but Dr. Gregory could show me, rather than tell me, this truth.

Just a few months later, he became my first employer in my chosen field, when he called me during Christmas break, actually very early January, 1980, to ask if I would teach a reading class at the Applied English Center. Joyfully, I ditched my hourly library job and threw myself into the challenge. In this, my first such teaching effort ever, I learned that Dr. Gregory, my 'boss,' was also first and foremost ODG, my colleague. Anything that he asked us teachers to do, he was not only willing to do himself, but immersed himself in along with us. Rather than delegate tasks, he participated in them with us as a team member at the same time that he led us.

Whether it was the textbook selection committee or the "how to use Newsweek in the classroom" group of teachers, when Dr. Gregory was involved, he demonstrated rather than delegating responsibilities. Always the true living educator, he was the first to show us by example what was expected of us. I got the point: to lead is to gently serve, and do. And in fact, years later, some of my most successful experiences as a 'level coordinator' and a cooperating practicum teacher came as a result of my seeing young teachers in training as my colleagues, not my underlings in any way . . . to the mutual benefit of all. Thanks, Dr. Gregory.

Then it was Dr. Gregory with whom I had my first conversations about my masters thesis, which I somehow allowed to get blown way out of proportion and stand in the way of my personal and professional progress over several years' time. Throughout that very difficult time period, I experienced Dr. Gregory as a kind, patient, stimulating, highly knowledgeable and resourceful mentor. In countless conferences with him in his corner office where books and other resources were literally stacked to the ceiling, I received untold priceless encouragement and practical help.

When it seemed most doubtful that I would, in fact, ever finish 'the thing' and launch myself in the ESL field as planned, it was Dr. Gregory who clearly never gave up on me. ("Don't think of it as a whole thesis; rather, think of it as a series of short research papers, and go at them one by one," he said.) Rather than chastise me for my lack of visible progress on my thesis, in each such meeting, he always had a story from the farm for me to make me laugh and feel at home, as well as another potential source to lay his hands on and put into my hands from among all those stacks to keep me thinking about how to move forward with my project in a creative fashion. I was impressed with the value of being ready to use any and all published resources for the sake of teaching, research, and professional development. Then there was that wonderful last meeting I had with him as thesis advisor when his signature on page one became my ticket to the world out there. Dr. Gregory, it is no exaggeration to say that I OWE YOU MY CAREER.

Later, it was he who tipped me off about the first professional ESL position that I held outside the AEC, and encouraged me to apply . . . Thanks to this tip, I hurriedly taught my last classes at the AEC under his direction as curriculum coordinator, and off I went to Coffeyville, KS, to teach Central American students. The rest is history; thanks to Dr. Gregory, I "got a life" and am still thankful to be living it today! I could go on and on. . . for example, about the way he first saw my talents in materials and curriculum development . . . and commented on them in written evalutations of my work. I remembered his comments countless times over the years as I was involved in such activity time and again professionally, and to this day I happily consider myself a capable writer as well as a teacher when it comes to ESL . . . thanks to you, Dr. Gregory!

Teacher, boss, mentor, friend and father figure: Dr. Gregory's impact on my life and career cannot be measured, counted or overstated. Rather, it must be celebrated and passed on. Thanks, Robb Scott, for the opportunity to share these words. As you say, there is "an enormous gulf which still separates [us] from the example of scholarship and teaching those of us at K.U. received from Dr. O. Dean Gregory." Yet ODG himself would remind us that the last word has not been written yet; we never need give up or stop pursuing professional development, excellence and service. As language professionals, that's the first and last thing we can do to even begin to live up to the likes of Dr. Gregory.

Margaret Scheirman
Minnesota English Center
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

2003 ESL MiniConference Online