Parting Shot: Gettysburg's Gift

Gettysburg helped me to make up my mind in a most fundamental way. Taking courses in English composition and creative writing, I began to develop the habits of mind that enabled me to think through a subject.

While warning me about being too fancy or pompous or unreal, Mrs. Katherine Taylor helped me by pointing out when a good idea was not enough to carry a story. Another professor wrote on my papers “lacks clarity” or “needs more thorough and sensitive understanding.” The debating team shamed me into learning how to marshal my thoughts into a cohesive argument. Writing for The Gettysburgian and The Mercury exposed me to more instructive criticism.

Gettysburg College also supplied my mind with ideas. It was my good fortune to have Prof. Norman Richardson as my teacher and advisor. He showed me the excitement of thinking grand thoughts. “Contemporary Civilization” and “Literary Foundations of Western Culture” set a table full of intellectual staples. Physics Prof. Richard Mara helped me keep my feet on the ground. Even Prof. William Sundermeyer spread a few ideas around when he taught us German. Blue books were the laboratory where ideas came to life or died a slow, painful death.

Ideas floated all around campus, from an animated Prof. Richard Arms to a thoughtful Chaplain Edward Korte. Whether in the Bullet Hole or the Varsity Diner, we haggled over the merits of communism versus capitalism. At Jean’s Ice Cream Bar, we argued about the Greek system and its impact on the campus. Ideas were the ammunition we hurled at each other hoping to gain the high ground.

Gettysburg’s gift to me was to help me make up my mind, not just in the sense of making decisions, but in the sense that it literally supplied the ingredients to build my mind. I do not consciously think of Gettysburg every time I put pen to paper or fingers to computer keyboard. But every time I do write, I know Gettysburg is whispering to me from the deepest corners of my consciousness, helping me to make up my mind once again.

By Jerry K. Robbins ’57
Posted: 06/05/19