Mentor’s death brings back college memories

By Lynn Moncus: QCS columnist

While reading the obituary of Maude Tully Guthrie, my biology professor at New Mexico A&MA, I was most pleased to note the New Mexico State University Board of Regents had honored her in 1984 and said “she had diligently pursued a career devoted to teaching students.”

She certainly earned that praise because those of us who were privileged to be in her classes knew we were in the presence of a real teacher, one who treated us as individuals and who wanted to help us gain more than just an understanding of biology. She wanted us to take as much pride in our work as she took in her teaching and to learn as she was to teach.

Although she was a small lady, she was a giant in the classroom and gained our attention as she entered the door and began her lectures at top speed. In those ancient times, we took copious notes in our classes and used them to supplement the reading of the textbooks and to study as we prepared for exams.

I used to think she would talk a little faster if she thought we were about to catch up in taking those notes. I’d see her eyes sparkle and feel her enthusiasm as she delivered her lectures. If she could be that excited about teaching, I could become excited about learning and did. She just naturally captured our attention and held it until the class ended.

She was always well groomed, as many teachers were in the olden days, and believed in setting an example for her students. Her smile, as she entered the classroom, was always warm and welcoming, and she maintained a real presence as she held the fort. She’d take time to answer questions and to be sure we understood what she was talking about. She had the energy to meet us after class should we need a little extra help and was interested in us as people as well students in her class.

Because she had taught my aunts many years before I went on campus, she would often stop me to ask about them and to tell me to give them her regards. She remembered her students and liked to keep in touch with them.

Although I didn’t have her husband as a professor, she saw that I knew him and because of that made my life a little easier when I became a professor. Mr. Guthrie was dean of college business administration at that time and came to my rescue when I was in a bit of a bind because a football player had failed one of my classes. I was receiving more calls than I cared to take and was more than a little tense when Dean Guthrie called to tell me to stand my ground no matter what.

He knew that some of the administrators were trying to get me to change the grade and knew as a young professor I might feel that I should listen to them. He also learned that I was more than a little stubborn, but I surely thanked him for standing beside me as he was the only one who chose to do so during that little affray.

Of course, the grade was not changed, but I surely was pleased to have one strong person on my side. I wouldn’t have let him down any more than I would have missed one of Mrs. Guthrie’s lectures.

This woman from the canyons was most fortunate to have had such mentors!