When your professor walks into your English class with his Austen novel bulging with post-it notes marking his favorite passages, you know this professor loves his literature. And as this professor starts speaking about his favorite pieces, you realize how fortunate you are to be a student of this professor who has the desire to share his love of literature with you. 

Professor Hopkins was this professor. He loved Austen, Scott, and other Romantics, and he let you know why they deserved such praise. He had the courage to begin a semester with William Blake (disregarding his wife’s insistence that to do so would be cruel and insane) and managed to keep all of us enrolled in his class until the end—because he made you realize it was worth it. He recognized when a student’s comment was simply an excuse to bring up their favorite theorist, and would brush their comment aside with a simple and inoffensive, “Uh-huh,” before bringing the discussion back to his actual point. You knew to come to his class prepared because he wouldn’t wait for you. (“I hope you’ve all read the ending.”) And he admitted that his one-page summaries were simply a way to ensure we read the assignment for the day (and that the number of check marks he gave our papers represented his enthusiasm as he read, not necessarily our grade). 

Prof. Hopkins introduced me to Ms. Jane Austen, and his love and genuine joy for her novels made me interested in discovering her other works for myself. George Eliot and Sir Walter Scott were among other authors that took part in the curriculum, and Prof. Hopkins’s enthusiasm for their works was catching. Intelligent lectures, insightful discussions, and the overall feeling of excitement for classic literature made up Prof. Hopkins’s courses. By the end of class, his wild hair would be standing on end from him pulling at it with both hands in excitement in a ferocious attempt to explain his ideas and help us understand the great works he was introducing to us. His boards were covered in unidentifiable symbols and doodles during his lectures—with the occasional word, rare phrase, but never full sentence—which left some of us to wonder what the incoming class might think we were studying. (“I don’t know. This looks like a whirlpool. Then there’s this swiggly line here. Does that say ‘Waverly’? And is this some sort of sun ray blazing down on top of it all?”) In his class, you knew you had found someone who loved literature as much as you did, someone who knew—and reminded you—why stories were amazing, who often shared his joy in the writing and imagery of a story, and reminded you that sometimes that joy is reason enough to love a book.

Thankfully, the university also recognized the treasure they had in the English department and rewarded Prof. Hopkins accordingly before he passed on. Sadly, the university will have a hard time finding one who can fill his place and give future students the amazing and exciting education they deserve as lovers of literature. How fortunate I am to have had such a professor.

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