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TALKING TO MYSELF 18 April 2013: Word has come that Dr. Gwen Curry, longtime professor of English at Georgetown College, died on Tuesday. I had not seen her in a year, maybe a little longer, and her death caught me off guard. We hadn’t gotten together for lunch like we always talked about doing, I hadn’t yet given her a copy of my new book, and I didn’t have a copy of hers -- She was not young, of course, but she wasn't old either. She was timeless in the way some people manage to be.
I didn’t meet Gwen until the late 1990s when my husband accepted a position at Georgetown College as Treasurer/CFO. A newcomer both to academia and to this particular close-knit college community, I was aware that my credentials were unimpressive in this crowd. I’d spent most of my adult life as a stay-at-home mom who scattered any left-over energy and brain cells into volunteer work pushing children towards the civilized life. Now, there wasn’t a Brownie girl scout in shouting distance, and I found myself making small talk with Ph.D’s over coffee. It was in one such conversation that I revealed to Gwen, who had taught a creative writing class at Georgetown for years, that I, too, had always wanted to write. Then – well, I don’t know what came over me. My best guess is that I was emboldened by her kindness. My mouth opened and words tumbled out suggesting that I, Georgia Stamper with the next to blank vita, form a writing group with her, Dr. Gwen Curry who had been named Kentucky Professor of the Year in 1993.
Gwen had no clue whether I knew a metaphor from a hole in the wall. Yet, to my relief, she agreed to my proposal with enthusiasm. She rounded up several other women from the faculty and staff, and offered to host the group in her living room every other week. Over the months that followed, my tentative journey into the writing life began. Fifteen years later, I haven't produced anything remarkable – except that I believe the trying, itself, has been remarkable. My life is richer, fuller, because Gwen invited me into her living room, and I began to try to do what before I’d always only hoped to do.
In time, our group dissolved. One member accepted a local political position, three of us, including me, moved away, and the others were pressed by the demands of work and family. Sitting here this afternoon, however, I remember those empowering discussions we had in Gwen’s home so many years ago as if they occurred last month. I realize I am only one of many that she encouraged during her lifetime, and am reminded of Jesse Stuart’s words: I am firm in my belief that a teacher lives on and on through his students. Good teaching is forever and the teacher is immortal.
About Gwen Curry – copied from the Georgetown College website: http://www.georgetowncollege.edu/eng/employees/gwen-c-curry/
Ph.D., Indiana University
M.A., University of Kentucky
B.A., Georgetown College
Dr. Gwen Curry received the Cawthorne “Excellence in Teaching” Award in 1992, was named Kentucky Professor of the Year in 1993, and won the George Walker Redding Faculty Award in 2000. In 2003, she gave the McCandless lecture on “Poetry, death, and Christian faith” at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. “The Curry Award for Faculty Excellence” (established in 2005) is named in honor of Dr. Curry and her husband, Dr. Ralph Curry, both Chairs in the English Department and long-time faculty at Georgetown College: the award recognizes faculty who excel, as the Currys did, in service, scholarship, and dedication to students.
©Copyright Georgia Green Stamper 2013