Remembering a teacher and friend
Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 28, 2007
Before I get bogged down with my duties here, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a friend to many who passed in my absence. That friend was Dr. Mike Daniel.
I first met Mike when I was a freshman at LBWCC. I was terrified of any history classes and by the sheer fact the textbook was huge scared me even more. How would I work full time and find time to study everything in that book. I soon learned that he didn't always teach from the textbook. It was more of a reference tool than a teaching tool. For me, his classes were always interesting by the extra facts, or behind the scenes, that he would share.
I took a total of six history classes under Mike and I'm proud to say I aced every one.
After I finished my degree at LBW, I transferred to Troy and didn't see Mike again until I began working here as a reporter back in 1996. He would call with story ideas and I would snap them up. Not as a favor to him, but because he took a genuine interest in the stories we covered.
When I became editor I began a reader advisory board made up of a cross section of people throughout the county. Needless to say, he was one of the first people I called to join me and he quickly accepted.
Mike always amazed me with his ability to have conversations on a wide array of topics. I always considered him well read and he had a devilish sense of humor. He would degrade me for my allegiance to Auburn and I would give it right back for his neverending support of the Capstone.
When I moved to Atlanta in 2005, I honestly figured he would be one of those people I wouldn't see again. However, about six weeks after the move, I got an email from him that he was coming to Atlanta for some meeting and wanted to know if I would have lunch with him. I responded that a visitor from home would be great.
When he arrived at Georgia Tech, I was waiting for him. We got into a university car and headed into Midtown to The Flying Biscuit. He quipped about he hoped a biscuit didn't hit him in the head and I laughed about it. Actually they have some of the best fried green tomatoes I've ever eaten. We spent the next two hours having lunch and chatting about how things were going for me, but I was also starved for news from Greenville. He filled me on everything he knew and about the rumors he had heard. It was a great lunch.
A few months later, he emailed me that he was coming back to Atlanta and wanted to know if I would be free for lunch that Saturday. I was going to see a matinee of Wicked that day, but when I said I had two extra tickets, he jumped at the idea.
He met several of my friends and we all had a grand time at the show and at the late afternoon lunch afterwards. This one really obnoxious guy I know got into this heated debate about the war and before it was over, I thought Dr. D. was going to leave the guy in tears. Luckily, my dear friend Nicole soothed all the ruffled feathers at the table and we went on.
That's how it went until last August 2006 when I saw him for the last time. The High
Museum was having a special exhibition and he was coming to see it. We ate at some hole in the wall barbeque place and he was off to the museum. As I parted ways with him that day, the last thing he said to me is something I'll never forget. He said, “Jay, Atlanta doesn't agree with you. This is not your calling.” That was it plain and simple.
When he found out that I had gotten sick and gone on medical leave he stayed in touch. He was excited about taking over at the Greenville campus and looked forward to successfully steering its growth to even greater heights.
Back in February, I had a doctor's appointment in Atlanta the day after Mike died so I was a bit out of touch.. I did not know it had happened until I got an email from Angie Long. I sat here at my computer staring blankly at the screen reading over and over her words, not wanting to believe them. But he was gone. Someone I looked up to and who I sought out for counsel on various aspects of life was no longer there.
When I met him, he was simply another teacher, but by the end he was someone I called friend. I miss my friend. The old adage is “To teach is to touch a life forever.” With Mike Daniel that is a true statement. I don't think I'll ever forget him and I don't want to.
For me it's not about the fame or fortune you collect in your life. To me it's about the knowledge and experience that is lost forever when you go. Mike took a lot with him and the world seems less now because of it.
Jay Thomas is group managing editor and can be reached at 334-382-3111, ext. 136 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.