Friday, December 16, 2011

Rest in Peace

We lost a professor emeritus last night, Dr. Dave Sentman. He was a very warm, funny man with a gentle, kindly face and demeanor that put me in mind of a beloved pediatrician. He loved to talk about anything and everything--the history of tulips in Holland, the beauty of Bach's violin concertos, the algorithms behind CT scanning and reconstruction, how much fun it is to climb all over the gold dredges in our environs, his life in his rural home, etc.

When I had first moved to Fairbanks, he warned me of the frightening noises a snowpack makes when it slides off a hot roof. He also told me a funny story about how he had once woken up in his home in mid-winter, and checked the clock and saw that it read a bit past 6. Thinking that a perfectly reasonable time to get up and go to work, he did so, only to arrive and find the building nearly empty. He made a pot of coffee, worked for a few hours, and wondered where everyone was, until it dawned on him that it had been a bit past 6 p.m. when he had first gotten up. "These are things that only happen to academics!" he said.

He went off on so many tangents in the middle of his lectures that I was always amazed that at the end of the semester, he was always right on schedule with the syllabus. He must have planned his digressions very carefully!

He had just retired last spring. What a shame. On the other hand, he did truly enjoy teaching, and we students were fortunate to have him.

Here is my favorite picture from his plasma physics lectures:

1 comment:

Debs said...

How sad he didn't get to enjoy a longer retirement, but it sounds like he had a very interesting life ;-( You speak of him in the same way I feel about my first year tutor. He told the most amazing tales during his lectures (including the time he was threatened by an armed gang while conducting fieldwork as he'd wandered into one of their dodgy plantations without realising...). As you say, some stuff only happens to an academic!