I Taught Santa

Gerry Haddad
Assistant Professor of Economics

I came to Lansing Community College and found the very definition of the adult, lifelong learner. I first met Sonny, at the podium at the front of the class and I assumed he was the professor from the previous class. To look at Sonny, anyone could see the uncanny resemblance to Santa. He had a white beard, glasses sliding down his nose, but lacked confidence in his eyes.

I assumed he was the earlier class professor until he apologized for being at the podium, and I realized that he was probably a student. I searched for the right words to ask what brought him to LCC and my class in particular. Sonny was a veteran of the Korean Conflict, he earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy 35 years earlier, and just started a degree in business at LCC. He was timid in the first weeks, not offering much participation in the class. I sensed he was a source of vast and varied knowledge so I prodded and poked him until his barriers came down. His wealth of experience was such a welcome addition to the classroom. Later he shared with the class that he had a successful career teaching for another college and wanted to keep challenging himself because, in his words, “I want to keep my brain from turning into mush.”

He had significant challenges, but overcame each with consummate professionalism. Besides being timid, technology was a challenge. In his educational career, he was comfortable at the brick and mortar library, but he was determined to master the virtual library. Sonny, ever the professional, was eager to learn my expertise in research methods. He was a quick study and soon began to mentor others in the class.

Throughout the class, he would volunteer his experiences from his fruitful life. His capstone paper helped me define what I was looking for in subsequent papers for all my classes. His research was meticulous, his thoughts and opinions were eloquent as well as knowledgeable. He was a delight to teach. He earned a 3.5 in the class because of a few early missed opportunities. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Sonny’s name in a later class for which he earned a 4.0.

Sadly, I lost touch with Sonny after both of our classes together, and I can only hope that he learned as much from me as I from him.