Dr. Billi Gordon

My Teachers & Mentors

Ms. Mary White

For how many years did I hate you for making me stay in from recesses all of those times to learn my basic arithmetic? How many times did you write my parents notes asking what was going on in our house? When they fashioned the euphemism, “great lady”, you were whom they were talking about. I still have my second grade report card, with your signature, passing me to the third grade, but more importantly, I carry with me the signature of your tremendous success as a teacher and a human being. Thank-you, Mrs. White, for ensuring I received the fundamental currency for survival in this world, i.e., an excellent,

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Ms. Gwendolyn Manns

Every year for all those years you taught 3rd grade, you would write a play, and every kid in the class had a part, and not just a part, but also a part that made each every one of us believe that we were “the star” of the play.  Now in retrospect, I realize that I truly was the star of that play, regardless of what Lynn Jackson or Laura Kroepel think.  You also taught us to play the flutophone—again above and beyond the call of duty.  When they fashioned the word “super star,” it was you, not Hepburn, they were talking about.

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Ms. Patricia Flewelling

You were my 4th grade teacher and the prettiest teacher at Patrick Hamilton. I remember lots of great things about you. You taught us Spanish when you didn’t have to; you became friends with my mother and came to our house. You were the only white teacher that did anything like that. In 1963 when it was more than above and beyond the call of duty, it was an act of courage and political defiance.   You were the first teacher who ever called me smart.

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Ms. Karen Gunn

I’m sure you have received many condolences for being my 8th Grade science teacher, which, I know, was a rough gig.   You said to me once, “You’re the kind of person that can be anything he chooses to be.” In my adolescent world, where positive reinforcement was a rare commodity at best, you can never know how precious those words were to me, or how they sustained me through the years.  Sorry I was such a disciplinary nightmare in your class, but I’m sure you know all too well, how adolescent boys are when they have crushes on the cute new science teacher.

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Mr. John Lewis

You were my high school English Teacher, my wrestling coach, my first Black male teacher, my only black male coach and the first person that ever took me a nice restaurant.  You were the first really positive image of a black man that I had.  You were the reason I was able to begin the long and arduous journey from the chagrin and self-loathing that was being black in the heartland of Ike and Maine’s America to self-love and acceptance. Retrospectively understanding, the tremendous racial discrimination and career obstruction you endured at Dowagiac Union High, I have even greater respect for you.  You didn’t need DUHS, but DUHS needed you,

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Mr. Martin Hammon

You were my high school chemistry teacher and tennis coach. You were arguably the greatest science teacher that ever lived. Whenever I have a science question, I call you at home, and I graduated from high school 40 years ago.  Thank you for teaching me how to learn science.

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Mr. Harvey Lembeck

During my extended “Junior Year Abroad in Hollywood” so to speak, you taught me improvisation and how to act in 3-camera sit-coms at Paramount Studios. In the way that only you could, like you did with Robin Williams, John Ritter, Penny Marshall and countless others, you did the with me, i.e., made me a better actor than I ever hoped to be and a better person than I was when I came to you.  The only thing you did wrong was leaving this world too soon.

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Mr. Robert Hayden

You were the first Black Poet Laureate, of U.S. Library of Congress, and the first black man who recognized that first, and foremost, above all else, I am a poet, and that that is okay.  So I say to you old master: On the live stage there are no retakes Just a final curtain to be drawn The actor has but one choice to make Once the house lights come up and on There are no deals that can be made With the dusk, the dark or with the dawn When the sun goes down it’s too late The day has already come and gone And which road does the

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Father William McNiff, OSC

You were my English Composition teacher from the Monastery. Everybody said you were the most conservative priest in all of the orders of the Canons Regular, and that I was the most wayward seminarian in the history of the Catholic Church.  Yet, we became great friends, and you were the first to recognize that writing may be among my “more accessible talents”.  Thank you, I shall never forget the word “puce,” and losing to you by one point in “The Scrabble Game of the Century.” Rest well with God. I’ll be along soon enough, and there will be a Scrabble rematch in heaven—unless of course you want to have the

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Mr. James W. Toy, MSW

If only I could care for and teach myself as consistently and as well as you have for 3 decades, oh what a wise man I would be. Thank you, for helping me circumnavigate the University of Michigan and for giving me the litmus to hold against myself, which shaped my aspirations in terms of the kind of man, I truly hope to someday be. Thank you for your gentle and steady guidance, your tender verve, and most of all your tenacity. Thank you on behalf of the hundreds of Steven’s, Tony’s, Shawn’s, Scotties, Johns, and Kim’s that were wounded and lost like me, that found shelter, healing and direction

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Mr. Dominic Little

You are probably the only man in this world that could make me understand the worth of statistics, because only a few people in this world understand statistics as well as you. You’re the best kind of teacher because you can be as erudite or as heathen as need be to deliver the subject matter.

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1. Dr. James Elias

Without you’d I’d still be on the wrong side of my master’s degree. You are one of the greatest teachers I have ever known. Like everything in this world that is truly great, you are extremely misunderstood and grossly underappreciated by the rear mid guard. However, the vanguard gets you, and always has, which is why the U.S. Supreme Court relies on your expertise. And there are two reasons Rhodes Scholars from around the world, Stanford and Michigan Grads, who matriculated with distinction like myself, would go to Cal-State Northridge: 1) to study with the great Dr. James Elias, and 2) A rare rose is still a rare rose, no

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Dr. Peter Fenner

Granted, your peaceful non-type A personality approach to life is way “too Santa Fe: carpe manana” for my taste, not to mention my Type A to the 10th power personality. I learned the values of caution, diligence and focus. Thanks to your preparation, my defense was a walk in the park. Now getting to the park, a whole different story. I salute you, and thank you so.

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Dr. Candace Pert

I have the distinction of being the last student to have the honor of having this amazingly gifted, marvelously brilliant and talented woman to serve on their doctoral committee.  This was something you really didn’t need to do, Dr. Pert, something, you really didn’t have the spare time to do, but you made the time for me.  I am so truly grateful.  Thank you for making the time for me. Thank you for your book, “The Molecules of Emotion”, one of the hottest books ever!!! Thank you for your Peptide T work, discovering opiate receptors on the brain and your many, many other contributions to science. Thank you having the

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Dr. C A (Tony) Buffington

Other than being from Ohio State, I am hard-pressed to find any truly objectionable aspect of this man. If I can become half as good of a teacher as he is, I will have some truly lucky students.  There were many people, who made it possible for me to travel the road of “Doctoral Destiny.” Without some of those gracious contributions, I may have not been successful, but without the Dr. Buffington and his unwavering support, tenacity, compassion and just basic human decency I would definitely not have succeeded. So if you get annoyed because I insist that you call me Dr. Gordon, this man is largely to blame. You

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Dr. Mark S. Cohen

When they created the word, “brilliant,” this is whom they were talking about, academically, spiritually, socially, scientifically and artistically. Like Dr. Pert, Dr. Cohen is brave enough to stand up to the establishment and take a risk on the outlier and the unusual student. Like all of my mentors you are remarkable, and really too good, but so necessary, for this world.

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Dr. Sandra Cole

Without you and your diligence, there would be no “Dr. Billy Gordon” I learned so much from you, in terms of what to do, and what not to do.  And the final lesson was perhaps the greatest and certainly the most costly. So now you’re gone, but not forgotten, and not without the bittersweet mixture of remorse and gratitude for helping me be all that I can be. I love you so.  Not only are you one of the great professors at The University of Michigan School of Medicine, you are the embodiment of what Michigan does and always has stood for, excellence and an unwavering commitment to be being

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