Tribute to Professor Philip R. Sauer
Betty, Phil Jr., Karl, David, and Family:
Dr. Sauer knew very well what his intellectual and charismatic powers were, powers he
never used to advance himself, but to advance students at all levels; whether struggling freshmen or highly skilled upper class and graduate students. I am speaking today on behalf of all those students, hundreds of whom I have known personally.
One of the students I speak for, of course, is myself. I had the rare privilege of being first Dr. Sauer's student, then his faculty colleague, and finally, in his retirement and later mine, his
Friend. I earned about a fourth of my undergraduate credits under him, so I got to know many of his 1950's students well. We'd sit in the student union or in an unoccupied classroom and
discuss our assignment in German or English literature. Often the talk turned to Dr. Sauer--how precise, how knowledgeable, how demanding, how patient, how wise. In return, everyone wanted to do their best to please him.
Later, as a faculty member, from a different vantage point--5, 10,20 years later-I heard the same opinions and tales. Now the students told me about his ability and standards and charm--0r they had heard the rumors and wanted to work his class or classes into their schedules. That wasn't always easy, because a division head doesn't spend so much time in the classroom.
Meanwhile, I spent my 20 and more years, often in daily contact with Professor Sauer's students or would-be students; and, drawing my water from that well, I will summarize some of his strong contributions to student development. I offer a random, but to me characteristic; list of seven:
1. He taught his students to respect and develop their own powers.
2. His daily conduct, in and out of class, was a constant reminder that one can have great intellectual power and still remain humble and approachable.
3. He was a constant reminder, wherever he was seen, that the true teacher is also a learner.
4. He often reminded his students that good mental work is hard work, but deeply rewarding.
5. In that same vein, he taught rigorous research, the sort that leaves no stone
unturned, carefully distinguishes fact from opinion, and obeys the highest moral standards.
6. He modeled, in word and deed, a passionate respect for truth.
7. In all the above, he always acted out the positive attributes of good humor,
Patience, kindness, selflessness, and more--in short, he was human in the best sense of the word.
In all these reflections, I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 25. Professor Sauer was given many talents and he used them well. In the words of the parable, of the Lord himself, it is concluded: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. ..enter. ..into the joy of the Lord."