I knew O.Dean Gregory (or ODG as he was affectionately known) both as an administrator of the Applied English Center and as a professor. I only took one class from him: Linguistics 860. This was during the spring 1981 semester and my reminiscences are from it.
There were three textbooks for this course: 1) the second edition of Croft’s Readings on English as a Second Language; 2) Earl Stevick’s Memory, Meaning, and Method; and 3) Adaptation in Language Teaching by Madsen and Bowen. This was an excellent selection. The Croft book helped us learn the history of our field. I recall being impressed when I learned that ODG knew some of the contributors personally. He exposed us to some “out there” ideas, such as Suggestopedia and the Silent Way, via Stevick. He gave us something eminently practical in Madsen & Bowen. As a young teacher, I was tyrannized by the textbooks I was assigned to use in the Applied English Center. How could I cover all the material and do it justice? The Madsen and Bowen book liberated me from that crippling attitude. These three books were excellent complements to the Edinburgh book used by Dr. Erazmus in Linguistics 715.
ODG had the class write study questions for the Stevick book. Each of us was assigned between four and six pages and were to come up with two questions. These were collated and mimeographed (this was before photocopying was so widespread!) and distributed to each student. By having us write questions, ODG shifted the burden of learning onto the students. However, this did not mean he did not work himself. In my folder for that class I have his detailed study guide for the final. It was the most comprehensive written summary of course material I ever received in my graduate student career.
For a graduate class it was quite large with 26 students. 17 were internationals. ODG was able to get them to participate actively. There was a great spirit of collegiality in the group which meant that none of our debates got nasty. I recall being frustrated that Dr. Gregory did not lecture more. However, in retrospect, I see that he was treating us as reflective professionals in training who needed to be allowed to express our opinions. To know what he thought on matters I should have taken advantage of his exceptional availability and sought him out after class.
We had to write two short papers for the class. One of the ones I did was the best I produced in graduate school. I know I must thank Dr. Gregory for inspiring me. The paper was on the subject of successful language learning strategies. From that point on in my career I have attempted to get students to discover what helps them learn best. I am always on the lookout for anecdotes from them that I can share with future students.
A classmate from Linguistics 860, Ann McEndarfer, used the words “supportive” and “helpful” to characterize Dr. Gregory. She stressed that she could never have completed her long thesis, which involved viewing 300 films, if it had not been for ODG’s assistance. He also demonstrated exceptional collegiality. For the purposes of her project, he allowed her to teach the AEC’s American society course one semester. This was a favorite part of his AEC work, but he was willing to share it in order to further a graduate student’s career.
I thought of Dr. Gregory this summer when I came across a devastating critique of Error Analysis (Hamilton, 2001) in Language and Communication. I wondered how ODG would react to such an article. After all, the Croft book had much on the subject of interlanguage. It did not take me long to conclude that Dr. Gregory would surely have forced us all to read Hamilton’s piece. ODG did not play favorites with ideas. He judged each on its merits in the same fair way he evaluated the work of each of his many students.
Hamilton, R. P. (2001). The insignificance of learners’errors: a philosophical
investigation of the interlanguage hypothesis. Language &
Communication, 21, 73-88.
Warren B. Roby
Professor and Chairman of Language Studies
John Brown University
Siloam Springs, Arkansas
2003 ESL MiniConference Online