In Memoriam Chase Crossingham ยท Gregory Pittman

In Memoriam Chase Crossingham

As a middle school administrator, I spend a lot of time explaining how bad social media is for teenagers. I use their language, so I don’t come across as preachy, but I don’t mince words: social media is one of the worst inventions ever for the developing brain and the way young humans should interact with each other. But I was reminded this evening how beautiful social media can be.

Paul Razzell is a writer in Canada. His Mastodon introduction post appeared on my feed, and I was drawn to it because he mentions his project related to Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherrent Vice.

I was a college freshman in 1991 taking the compulsory English 101 class. The instructor insisted we call him by his first name, Chase. He was as affable as he was burly. One of the first books we read for Chase’s class was Pynchon’s collection of short stories, Slow Learner. A writing assignment was attached to the reading, and when I received the graded paper back from Chase, there was a large A written on the cover page. I stared at that A for a minute. After class, I stayed behind to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. Chase assured me it wasn’t. I remember the conversation almost word for word.

“No. I enjoyed reading it.”

“But I never got anything higher than a C on any writing assignment in high school, and this is my first writing assignment in college. How can I get an A in college and a C in high school?”

“Because high school writing teachers sometimes think they have to be tough. They don’t. And some think they know it all. They don’t. You write well. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

I have told that story several times over the years; the impact that little bit of encouragement had on me was incalculable. But it wasn’t until my encounter with Paul Razzell earlier tonight that I thought to see what Chase has been doing since my English 101 class with him more than thirty years ago.

Chase continued to teach while working on his doctorate. As far as I can tell, he never finished his degree and eventually moved into financial planning, all the while maintaining his love for literature. Sadly, Chase died in 2014 at the age of 53.

Rest well, Chase Crossingham. You taught me not to be afraid to put my thoughts in writing. You also taught me to be a teacher who encourages students while maintaining high expectations. You taught me both are possible, and I have carried that conviction ever since. I have students of my own who are teachers now. I hope I have passed this belief on to them. If I have been successful, your legacy will live on for decades.