By Ralph Hood
Anytime you get to feeling that teachers “don’t get no respect,” you should Google one name—Dr. Hugh Macaulay—just to see how very respected a good teacher can be. He was one of the best teachers I ever met, and was living proof that a good teacher does make a difference and is never forgotten.
Dr. Macaulay taught economics when I was at Clemson University more than 4 decades ago. He went on to become a Who’s Who economist and author. He held administrative positions at Clemson and the U.S. Treasury Department but, above all else, he is remembered as a teacher. I stayed in touch with him until he died in 1986. I called him when I had an economics question that confused me. Each time I wrote something about economics I sent it to him first, to see if I got it right.
Dr. Macaulay was not imposing in appearance—he looked like Orville Redenbacher, the popcorn king—but his smile, his attitude toward life and other people, his brain, and his constant quest for knowledge made him a giant of a man. His real legacy was generations of fine students throughout the world.
Dr. Macaulay wore a leg brace. We always assumed he was a polio victim, but I learned years later that he was shot in France in World War II. He had a zest for life that made him hard to keep up with as he walked around campus like a man in a hurry, which he usually was.
I was not by anyone’s measure a stellar student, but Dr. Macaulay brought out the best in me. During the first course I ever took under him, he put a problem on the board and announced that anyone who could solve the problem earned an A for the course and could skip all future classes. That motivated me. I worked on that problem. I stopped by his office to discuss it. I took it home for the Christmas holidays, worked on it, and discussed it with friends, all to no avail. I simply couldn’t find the solution.
After the holidays I headed straight for Macaulay’s office. “I give up,” I told him. “What is the answer?” Dr. Macaulay looked at me almost sadly and said, “Nobody knows.” I was upset. “Why,” I asked, “did you let me work on that so hard if nobody knows the answer.” He looked me straight in the eye and said, simply, “I thought maybe you would be the person who figured it out.”
Ah, folks, you can really love a teacher like that, be s/he teaching supply and demand or airspace!
Shortly after graduating from Clemson, while I was working in sales with Procter & Gamble, I ran into Dr. Macaulay at a funeral. There were a thousand things I wanted to ask him, so I headed his way after the service. He met me half way, and before I could get in a word, he asked in his excited, enthusiastic way, “What should we be teaching people to help them work for a company like Procter & Gamble?” Macaulay never quit learning, never quit asking, and never quit teaching.
Teachers are among life’s important people. Dr. Macaulay was among the best of teachers.