In 1988 I closed my information technology consulting practice and embarked on a thirteen year quest to become a physician. It was a journey filled with remarkable people and events. Among the most memorable people was Elizabeth Keating, Ph.D. who taught an obscure English 205 course at San Diego City College. Dr. Keating was a small, older woman with a big presence, an English accent, and very definite opinions about writing.
In Dr. Keating’s class, you turned your work in inside a Duo-Tang™ 3-prong binder, turned upside down so you could add the latest work on top. You wrote the essays in ink, by hand, on college-rule 3-hole notebook paper. Variations were not tolerated: one’s creativity was to be restricted to content. Even there, poetic license did not apply.
Though I resented being separated from my beloved word processor, a couple of years later I would find myself writing an essay, with a pen, on notebook paper, for the Medical College Admissions Test. The discipline in the course alienated a lot of students, but galvanized me and other serious writers. During the semester, I would change my major from mathematics to literature and graduate with honors a few years later from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in literature with a writing emphasis. There is no question that the writing and communication skills I began honing in English 205 have proven far more valuable in my medical career than any number of organic chemistry, biochemistry, and life sciences courses.
Though I know little about her personally, I do know that she passed away from cancer a year or two after I took the course and, sadly, before I had taken the time to tell her of her profound influence on my life and career. Events, recently, have reminded me of the immense value of having a thoughtful, faithful, critical audience to inspire one’s best work, and so I revisit Dr. Keating now.
I have nothing to offer her memory save some of the essays she helped me create back in the Spring of 1989. They are a bit mangled by age, though I have tried to stick to the original text as much as possible:
- My Collaborator
- Hummingbird Repose
- Lies, Damn Lies, and Divorce Statistics
- A Poet, by any other name…
- Partners in Learning
- Legitimate Claims
Thank you, Dr. Keating.
— RonRisley – 07 Feb 2005
Aaack! I just now discovered that much of the punctuation (particularly apostrophes and quotes) disappeared from the text. Dr. Keating would have been horrified! No time to correct it now. Just know that this is not the text as she saw it, or I would have failed the course.
— RonRisley – 25 Apr 2009