By Yasmine Saleh, Guest Reporter
Theresa Smart, along with many other University of Michigan-Dearborn students and faculty members, shared their beloved memories of the late Dr. Bill Linn this past Thursday, March 17, at his memorial celebration. Linn passed away Jan. 10.
“We were never just bodies in a chair or faceless, nameless students,” said Smart, who received her B.A in English from the university in 2014. “Every single one of us was an individual, a person, a human being.
“That was his superpower, his gift. Each of us had a story to tell and he helped us tell them. He never had a negative thing to say and helped so many of us sought out our voices. He helped us find our strengths and build on them, not point out our weaknesses. I don’t think he realized how special he was or how special his gifts were or how much of an effect he had on us. Each of us here are better to have known him.”
The celebration was held at the university’s CASL building at 4 p.m. It was put together by Elisa Madrigal, the department administrator of Literature, Philosophy, and the Arts, Dr. Smith, the department chair, Jennifer Griffin, a current english student and Linn’s family members.
They chose to host the celebration on St. Patrick’s Day in honor of Linn’s affection for Irish culture. It was themed as an Irish Wake, where students, faculty and family members, shared poems, stories and songs dedicated to Linn.
Dr. Smith, the master of ceremonies (MC), began the event by sharing his favorite moments with Linn and then introduced the speakers.
Among the speakers was Dr. Pollard, an English professor and former colleague of Linn. She spoke about her fondness of Linn’s careful instincts and shared the story of a woman who was published due to the encouragement of Linn.
“Marvin V. Arnett, a woman in her sixties, attended UMD, and when Bill read her first essay, he told her ‘if you could write 20 more of these, you could have a book.’ Who says that?” cried Pollard. “But Arnett took his advice and began writing those essays. Bill supported her even when he was on another continent. He had her send each essay and gave her feedback, which was pretty amazing. She completed the 20 essays he asked for. 90 publishers shut it down, so she self-published as Pieces from Life’s Crazy Quilt. Years later, her book was published a second time by The University of Nebraska Press.”
It was obvious how much Linn impacted the university, the department, and most importantly, the very many students who passed through his classroom. After his passing, the Dean of CASL, Marty Hershock, stated that he received dozens of emails along the lines of “Dr. Linn helped me find my voice” and “he changed my life.”
However, along with the encouraging, supportive side that many spoke about, it was easy for Linn to get under your skin.
“He called me a Calvinist!” said Dr. Smith. “He saw himself as the provocateur and would say what nobody else would.
“He pushed things a little too far, but he was able to apologize for his actions.”
Zachary Hay, a current english student, also commented on Linn’s intimating side.
“He always commented on my poor taste of poetry. Although this got under my skin, it pushed me to expand myself. I was digging into poetry I never thought of reading and realized that Professor Linn was right. I was missing out.”
As the ceremony came to it’s end, Dr. Smith left the stand open for anyone interested in sharing a few final words about Linn. About a dozen of hands shot up, and one after another, students took their turn at the front of the room remaking on their relationship with Linn, because that is what they were commemorating — a relationship.
“Death ends a life, not a relationship,” said Hershock, “a relationship that will not be ending with Bill’s passing.”