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October 28, 2015


Corey Blake


Thank you for inviting me into these personal moments. Getting to see your mentor teach your children, and then to be in the sand with you as you played Frisbee with the young man only to feel the spirit of your mentor before your eyes... I am so moved. You have invited me to think fondly upon a mentor of my own, a professor by the name of Graham Provan who loved his students more than I had previously seen possible, or have felt since. Most other students called him a monster because he was the toughest old SOB at our university. But I experienced him as all love, the beautiful kind of love that demanded we start exactly on time. The kind of love that gave me more work than I thought I could handle, only to prove to myself I was capable of more than I believed. The kind of love that taught me to show up over-prepared to avoid the embarrassment of being publicly called out. He was brutal, and I never felt so cared for by a teacher.

He also introduced me to author Leon Uris, whose books became a love affair in my life and shaped so much of what I've built in a storytelling company.

I am grateful for your vulnerability, and for your invitation into a precious series of moments that invite me back into my own life. Thank you, my friend. You are a gift.

With love,

Elizabeth H. Cottrell

Oh my goodness, Steve...what a fascinating and poignant piece. I wish I had known your Will, but people like that, I believe, enrich us all. You have inherited many of his wonderful traits of intellectual curiosity and generosity in sharing.

Cassandra Belgrave

What a fabulous story...Steve: "Psalm 23: 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me"...Be comforted...Genetic Drift...I remember something about that and Pennsylvania Dutch from freshmen year Zoology class back in 1969...

Gay Kenney Browne

You are a wonderful writer! Though serendipity inspired, the way you wove the past, present and future memories of Will's life into an ordinary but poignant moment by the sea (a classic literary metaphor) is brilliant! What I want to know is, what stirred inside of you that caused you to postpone the swim? Was it for the love of finding things out? Or was it just to be playful? Did the sight of a flying Frisbee tug at your heart the same way people try to catch moments as they sail through life? Thank you for sharing this story. It gave me a moment of cherished reflection about the magic of life and stirred fond memories of my visit with you and Lori on that very same beach last May. Love, Gay

Gail Provine

Steve, thank you for that beautiful piece.That would have made Will very happy. He spoke of you with great affection and pride. Just a few notes about your piece:

- Will sent out that glowing review as his final act to promote his book. By then he had lost his ability to speak.

- Will enjoyed playing Frisbee, and was quite skilled at it. He always kept one in the back of his car.

- That picture is classic Will, and brings tears to my eyes.

Thank you for bringing him to life.

Angela Rojas

Hola Steve, gracias por compartir tan hermosa historia . Siempre hay gente con mucha pasión por lo que hacen, personas como tú a quien admiro y respeto profundamente. Personas que dejan una huella en tu vida y serán recordadas por siempre, como lo fue tu consejero. A esas personas talvez se le pueden llamar Ángeles, que nos animan a evaluar nuestra capacidad y mucho más. En la vida nos pasan cosas que como yo digo, no son coincidencias sino Dioscidencias y creería que eso fue lo que te pasó en la playa con el niño. Dios te regalo la oportunidad de despedirte de tu consejero atravez de ese chiquillo, creo que fue un ángel.
Con cariño, tu profesora de Español

Steve Leveen

Dear Gay,

Thank you for your kind praise of my writing. This is one of those cases, however, when the story told itself, or at least wanted to. I was something of an intermediary. As for why I postponed my swim, I dearly love Frisbee and never get enough time to play. I love any kind of playing catch, actually. It is a marvelous form of human cooperation, when you think of it. Frisbee still has something of the magic in it of an object that seems to defy gravity. Anyway, that's the simple answer. When Gail Provine, Will's widow, writes above how much Will loved Frisbee and was skilled at it, that makes me die a little. If only I had known! I so wish we had played. But maybe, after all, we did.
Hug you soon around campus,

Steve Leveen

Gracias Angie,

Tus palabras son un cálido abrazo. Me encanta tu frase, Dios te regalo la oportunidad de despedirte de tu consejero atravez de ese chiquillo. Creo que es verdad. Tu estudiante lento pero fieles, Steve

Thanks Angie,

Your words are a warm embrace. I love your line, God gave you the chance to say goodbye to your mentor right through that child. I think that's true. Your slow but faithful student, Steve

Al Merritt

Thank you, Steve, for sharing yourself and waking in me that spirit of mystery always so close at hand, yet so difficult to grasp. Yes, of course his name is Will...what else...

Yesterday I drove to Orlando from Miami with a friend to visit our mentor, whom we have been saying for months we would go see because he has been ill. We finally scheduled the trip and had driven halfway when we received a call from his daughter. "Don't come. Dad took a turn for the worse and is not getting out of bed. Hospice is here." Wow. Why did we wait three months to visit our friend? We pleaded with her to allow us to come anyway and just sit and pray by his side, and through tears she consented. Two hours later we walked into his kitchen, the kind untouched for 50 years, with octogenarians living in their original married home. Bob, sitting in a wheelchair, smiled at us, and spent the next two and a half hours visiting with us. Wow! His daughters, son, and wife said he rallied for us. What a beautiful last gift from this great man. We prayed with him, and through our tears left for the long drive back to South Florida, knowing we had said goodbye to our dear mentor. He made us promise we would return before we left, and we did.

Thank you, my friend Steve. Al Merritt

Steve Leveen

Dear Al,

What a lovely story about your mentor and your important last visit. He not only gave you a great gift, but you gave him a gift he so appreciated at the end. I admire your spirit and am honored to be your friend.


Ray Penn

As a professor who has retired after more than three decades of teaching I am touched by your tribute to your favorite professor. I once paid a similar tribute to one of my seminary professors in a church newsletter. A week later I received a postcard with two sentences from him: "arid the soil; useless the seed. Never forget you were willing soil." He was able to be a good teacher because you were a willing student. Education is a dance and too many students don't want to dance.

What pains me most in my decades of teaching is the loss of curiosity somewhere during the transition from elementary school to high school. After that anything that is difficult is interpreted as being boring. Then there are the grade grubbers who will technically qualify for an "A" but really are neither curious nor actually alive in the moment. They are living in graduate school thinking that a perfect 4.0 means that they are ready for that challenge. Give me the "B" student who is curious and who risks being wrong about things any day.

After teaching over 5,000 student I have to admit that I have found only about 20 who were really curious. Steve, you were as much a blessing to your professor as he was to you. I see my students as arrows shot into a land I can never enter called the future. You are an arrow that landed in the bullseye.

It is my belief that just as energy cannot be created or destroyed so neither can consciousness be created by the brain nor ever be destroyed. I believe your tribute is sensed and enjoyed by your professor. What a blessing you have given to him.

Shari Elessar

I was lucky enough to attend Will's seminar called History of Science in 1986. That one class (and working with Will, who was my thesis advisor) was worth more to me than any class I took at Cornell. I was the one who nominated him for the Clark's distinguished teaching award, which he deservedly won. Even though I did not keep in touch, I feel his passing is a loss to humanity.

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