Thursday, May 3, 2012
One Identifying Factor
Included in this quarter’s publication of The Log, the Alumni Association’s magazine for the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources of the University of Georgia, were three obituaries of men having all died within three months of each other, and all former professors of my husband.
Dr. Klaus Steinbeck was Sandy’s silviculture professor. But what I didn’t know was that Sandy actually worked for him in the “work program.” A German immigrant who later became a US citizen, Dr. Steinbeck pioneered research of short rotation woody crops which even after his death is still gaining interest as “biomass energy is once again attracting national attention.” Little did I know my husband was a part of that effort even if it was just spraying weeds.
And because of Dr. Graham Brister’s mensuration course, my husband is one of the very few who takes the factor for determining the basal area of an individual tree or a timber stand to the ninth decimal opposed to the sixth: .005454154. It was an absolute requirement of Dr. Brister that his students know and abide by this number. And today, my husband still does.
But it seems wildlife professor Dr. Ernest Provost was one of Warnell’s most beloved and not to mention colorful teachers. Known as an “ornery old cuss,” he pushed students to high levels of achievement. He was professor through and through in the classroom – unless the students could get him sidetracked to talk about “the War,” where he served three years with the US Marine Corps in the South Pacific. But it’s the legendary story behind Dr. Provost that is the topic of this blog.
While teaching his students bird identification, Dr. Provost would tell them there was one factor that separated each type of bird from the other. But he wouldn’t tell what that was. They had to figure it out themselves. No doubt the students studied everything they could to identify their feathered friends. The color, the plumage, the eye shape, the wings, etc. But come test day when they walked into the classroom, it really didn’t matter. Dr. Provost had covered every inch of the bird … except for the feet. THAT was the one identifying factor.
Upon seeing what the “ornery old cuss” had done, one student slammed down his pencil and began to storm out the door. Dr. Provost called him to a halt and said, “Son, what is your name?” The quick-thinking young man turned around, reached down, pulled up his bell bottom pants, and said, “Sir, you tell me!”
Now whether that story is true or just a fable that has followed this flavorful professor to his grave, you’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty good one.
So what’s the one identifying factor as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Is it church attendance? Tithing? Giving to the poor? Working the soup kitchen? Not a one of those are bad, but you know where I’m going with this. When the cloth is draped and only one identifying factor remains, it’s not where our feet have taken us or our hands have served. John tells us it’s the shape of our heart.
"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
And to think we had studied so hard.
Just an ordinary moment…