I have three or four memorable teachers from my High School days – virtually all of them because of their sense of humor. I guess that must have left an impression on me because I find I’m constantly interjecting humor into my professional training and the undergraduate college class that I teach as an Adjunct.
Horace S. Herlihy was my high school physics teacher in my junior year. We were all crazy about him because he had a sharp sense of humor – a real quick wit and a casual teaching style. He was also the school’s track coach and would show his physics classes old black & white track films to illustrate the various laws of physics. Much more entertaining than those drab old science films created by some institutional studio (anyone remember those torturous 15 or 30 minute bits of celluloid?).
But Mr. Herlihy was one of my favorites because of his distain for authority. The Science Department chair at that time was a competent, but somewhat stuffy fellow who ruled with a bit of militaristic flair. Mr. Herlihy would refer to him as the Great White Father, or “GWF” (pronounced “gu-wiff”). “Listen you knuckeleheads, you’d better not make me look bad in front of the GWF, or else.” If I didn’t have these short French-Canadian legs I think I would have gone out for Track, just so I could have called him “Coach.”