I met Dave in 1988, when we both were ESL instructors in UNRIDJ's first year of operation, working from one of the upper floors in a high-rise office building, about two blocks away from Shiba Rikyu park and the Hamamatsucho Station of the Yamanote Line. Dave had the graces and knowledge which come from experience on highly esteemed international projects. I paid attention and learned even the smallest details, such as appropriate formats and headings on business correspondence, but he also encouraged me to think of myself as a serious ESL professional and would listen to my descriptions of classroom techniques and nearly always suggested that I ought to be developing materials and writing books.
Through my conversations with Dave that year at University of Nevada-Reno's Tokyo campus, I became aware of an important and influential network of international English language and cross-cultural program leaders, of graduates from the School for International Training (SIT, now called World Learning, Inc.) and ex-Peace Corps volunteers, who formed something akin to a genteel "mafia" and held many key posts at the elite programs around the world, especially at NGOs and U.S. government organizations.
That year in Tokyo, Dave was in a transitional phase, following a period of time when he had developed international training programs for SIT and served as a teacher-training and language specialist for USAID projects in Egypt and Pakistan; the next year, 1989, he took on another leadership post, as the director of a new Ohio University curriculum development project at Chubu University, in Kasugai, Japan, where he remained through 1996.
I had gone from Tokyo to a short-lived Green River Community College start-up in Kanuma, Japan, and was very interested when Dave Hopkins invited me to interview at Chubu, which soon led to me working at the Ohio Program for English Language Teaching (OPELT) curriculum research and design team as a senior lecturer, with Dave as my boss and mentor.
OPELT lasted for nearly 15 years, thanks to the foundation laid by Dave, with his sensitive, positive development of relationships across the campus, which helped to make our group an integral part of the Chubu University culture. I learned so much during the several years I spent at OPELT, and it still stands out in my mind as one of the best working relationships I have had with a supervisor, because Dave Hopkins is not just any ordinary supervisor. In the weekly meetings of our team, Dave developed the storyline of who we were, what we were doing there at Chubu, and the challenges that lay ahead as we strived to create working alliances and to make our projects relevant to the needs of our colleagues, our students, and all the key Chubu stakeholders.
My concept of myself as a professional matured during the several years I spent working with Dave Hopkins in Japan and, most importantly, through conversations with him in which he shared insights from years of cross-cultural experience. Dave is great at pulling from experience the kinds of implications and lessons that make the listener feel they are learning something vital about life and expanding their awareness regarding the world.
The Internet and e-mailing were in their early stages of adaptation in the period from 1992 to 1997, when I fell out of touch with my friend Dave Hopkins for a while after moving to New York City. But in 1998, a colleague of Dave's from Ohio University gave me his new e-mail address in Thailand, where he had moved to another leadership position, with the American University Alumni Center, in Bangkok, by that time.
"Hello Robb, I have died and gone to heaven, and it is Thailand," was Dave's first message in reply to my note via e-mail. About that time, he got involved with the TEFL International organization, based in Banphe, Thailand, where he developed their ESL teacher-training programs starting in 1998 and continuing for the next 12 years.
It was great to be in touch again, and I was thankful for Dave's strong encouragement as I developed the ESL MiniConference Online project, moved my family back to Kansas to work in ESL teacher education at the university level, and eventually, again, thanks in many regards to continually being reinforced and inspired by Dave's high level of professional activity and our interaction via the Web, I managed to complete a degree in special education at Kansas State University this past December.
Ideas, ideas, ideas, and more ideas. These are the products of friendship with David Bruce Hopkins. In February of this year, I traveled to Riyadh and joined Dave on a new project, as teachers in a huge intensive ESL program at an important Saudi university. I have been doing special needs curriculum development and Dave is a lead teacher and trainer on the professional development unit.
When we worked together at Chubu University, we would often have interesting discussions over curry rice, miso soup, and tofu in the faculty cafeteria. Here at King Saud University's Preparatory Year program, Dave packs his own lunch, a simple turkey sandwich and an apple, and encourages me to pay attention to my own diet, and try to eat smaller, more frequent meals, without unnecessary carbs or fats. He also has introduced me to daily exercise, and I am now up to 35 or 40 minutes four or five times a week, cross-training between a stationary bike and a skiing/walking machine. He has also shown me a couple of simple yoga stretches and passed along some yoga and exercise work-out videos to me (which I have not yet watched, I must admit).
There is a main stairwell at KSU-PY, with four flights of steep stairways, to get from the ground floor to the second floor, where our offices are. Inevitably, if several of us are walking up the stairs at the same time as Dave, it becomes clear at the top that he is in superior physical condition, because he is breathing normally while the rest of us are gasping for air.
When he left the Tokyo UNRIDJ offices for his new position at Chubu, Dave left on his work desk his daily lesson planner notebook, which I snagged and kept with me for a number of years. It provided a great example of the standard in our profession for writing lessons in terms of clear, simply-stated objectives.
Thank you, Dave, for making the standards so clear: standards of articulate conversation, standards for professional conduct, standards for personal growth and development, and standards for healthy living.
I also am thankful that you introduced me to Brazilian and Thai language and culture, as well as giving me a number of recommendations for good reading and good music. Those music videos of Eric Clapton and friends at Madison Square Garden, the Montreux Jazz Festival, and, more recently, his Crossroads events, are outstanding sensory experiences. And of course, James Taylor, one of your all-time favorites.
I look forward to many more years of interaction, correspondence, projects, and friendship with you. Long may you run, long may you run.
Editor and Founder
ESL MiniConference Online
2012 ESL MiniConference Online