Margaret was there at about 8:01, as usual. She was smiling, as usual. She had her books and papers and a question ready for me, as usual. She sat in her regular seat. But, as I walked into the Math Lab the morning after Margaret found out she had been accepted to the four-year school she was hoping for, I could tell that something was different. She pulled a piece of paper from her bag. She didn’t tell me what it was. She wanted me to read it myself, as if it were more real if I saw the actual letter.
I had been working with Margaret for a couple of semesters and had come to look forward to her questions and, maybe, to one of her sharp observations about the world. I had watched her progress from being unsure of herself and having difficulty with relatively simple problems to having the confidence that she could get almost any problem if she worked patiently and carefully. That morning she was so obviously happy that I was touched by her desire to learn, her desire to reach her goals, her desire to share this moment. Before that morning, I had no idea about her professional history or her future plans. It all came out with the letter. I felt caught in the beam of her clear eyes; they sparkled with pride and achievement. I still feel lucky to have been there.
I work with hundreds of students every semester and I had not heard from Margaret for a few years. Nevertheless, when I heard that she had died, I was overcome with sadness. Her spirit was so indomitable; her energy so powerful; her will so steadfast. She was persistent and unwilling to accept anything short of success. For me, she represents so many of the students I see every day. I will not forget Margaret.