Published in Press Releases
Q: You were a doctoral student of Dr. Torrance’s. How did you come to return to UGA as a faculty member?
A: I earned my Ph.D. In 1982, and yes I was a student of Torrance’s. I went to Louisiana, then to Illinois to work. All the while, I kept in touch with Dr. Torrance and taught and researched creativity. In the late 1980s, when Paul Torrance retired to take care of his wife, Pansy, the university advertised for a position. I did not apply because I knew that universities usually did not hire their graduates, but after the search had been going for a while, I met some of the UGA faculty at a conference and I was encouraged to apply. They couldn’t find anyone who had not been a student of Torrance’s who could teach the courses he had vacated. Since I had been away and worked at other universities, I was acceptable. I applied, got the position, and started on faculty at UGA in 1989.
Q: Tell us about your relationship with him at that point.
A: I was so fortunate that Paul Torrance lived near the university because in those first years, I asked him a lot of questions and he mentored me a good deal. We would have done more research together, but I was told that I needed to establish my own line of research, if I worked with Torrance, I would never be tenured and promoted.
So, I did more independent research, although it was still centered on creativity. However, during this time our relationship changed and we became more like colleagues/friends instead of professor/student. Although I always had the highest respect for him, I talked to him about issues and in ways that I would not have done as a student. My love for him also grew. I regularly took students to his house for a field trip for my classes, and visited him.
Q: You were close to him in his final days. Can you talk about that and the impact of his death in the world of gifted education and creativity?
A: I was at his house with two colleagues, Alice Terry and Jan Bohnenberger, when we noticed that he was having trouble chewing and swallowing his food at lunch. He also had trouble getting into bed for his nap after lunch. We told Mohammed, who lived in a basement apartment and was a caretaker/friend of Torrance’s, that we were concerned about his health. It turns out that he had had a stroke.
For the next several months, Mohammed and to a lesser degree I, tried our best to care for Torrance, see that he got appropriate care in a recovery center, and eventually brought him home to die.
So many people were writing for updates that I started a listserv and sent a weekly update on Torrance’s condition. The listserv grew, and I didn’t realize that people on the list were sending my messages out to other people and listservs all over the world. For years, I would meet people who would recognize my name as the author of the weekly updates.
Mohammed and I were hopeful that he would recover, and we saw him making progress when he had another stroke. This time, I realized that he would probably not recover. As it became apparent to us that he was getting weaker and would soon die, Mohammed made the unselfish decision to bring him home and let him be in his own house. I think he really felt better about that. In fact, his cat, Princess, lay on his chest with her ear to his heart and wouldn’t leave unless Mohammed made her go outside to eat and relieve herself. When she was let back in, she went back to lie on his chest.
We didn’t know it at the time, but Torrance had told Virginia Macagnoni (UGA professor emeritus) that he was ready to die, but Mohammed and I wouldn’t let him go. So, it is probably not surprising that on Saturday, July 12, 2003, on a day that by chance saw Mohammed out running errands and me cleaning up in my yard, Torrance was home with the hospice nurse and passed away. This is much more than you wanted to know, I’m sure, but it lets you know how deeply he affected my life.