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Alumni

Ric Hyland on Roger Sale

In response to Joe Wilson's "Who was your favorite prof" question designed to elicit responses for our Class Notes, Ric Hyland wrote the following -- edited down for the Notes, but here it is in full:

Dear Joe:

 
This is an easy call for me:  Roger Sales, overwhelmingly!
 
It was the first day of classes and a couple dozen of us were anxiously awaiting the English 101 professor.  I think the bell had rung a couple of minutes earlier, but no teacher was present.
 
Suddenly a couple of books sailed through the open window at the front of the room and thudded on the floor, followed by a loafer and white athletic sock attached to what appeared to be a fellow student in a tweed sports coat with the de rigour leather patches on the elbows. He grinned at us, picked up his books, and sat down behind the desk.  "Sorry I'm late," he smiled, "but it's such a beautiful day I couldn't resist walking around."
 
So. Not a student but he didn't seem to be any older than me, and I knew as a veteran that I was older than the other guys. For an assistant professor to be that young meant he must be mucho brilliant. As it turned out, with his Swathmore PhD at age 23, he was!
 
That got him the nomination as my favorite Amherst professor. He cinched the title later in the semester.  In a response to something he asked I used the word "finat" instead of "fineite." The other guys of course laughed at mymispronunciation. Prof. Sales slammed his hand on his desk and said something to the effect of "Don't anybody dare laugh! That proves he's smart enough to be self-educated. He has heard people pronounce infinite but never finite." 
 
I would have given him the same elevated status even if he was defending someone else's mistake. I think it reflects the same grounding in humanity that brought Stiglitz the Nobel and Legion d'Honneur.
 
Prof. Sales' subsequent adventure in the snowy woods, as discovered by the cross-country ski team, of course, earned him the right to have his "My Favorite Professor" jersey hung up in the old DKE House bar right next to where I hung Raymond Battacchi's "My Favorite Friend" jersey!
 
Aloha, Ric