I was just informed that Jeff Jeske, my college advisor, passed away. Jeff provided perhaps the only type of guidance I would have accepted at that age: “If that’s what you really want to do, here’s how you go about it.”
I almost didn’t graduate. I had failed a business class senior year, so I was two credits short. Not even a full class. That semester, with the help of a extraordinarily talented group of friends, I had put on a full-length play that I wrote. I’d like to claim that the play was why I failed the business course, but the fact of the matter was that I just couldn’t get into the material. Unlike the play.
I went to Jeff with the news of not being able to graduate, and while we talked about the possibilities of summer classes and the like, I brought out a longshot. Could I have the play, done through a club, count as a 2-credit independent study.
Jeff, to his credit, did not throw the idea out of hand. Instead, he looked a me, shrugged and said, as he always did, “If that’s what you really want to do, here’s how you go about it.”
He told me which forms I needed, how to fill them out, what they should say and who should sign them. And when I saw the dean not two hours later, a fist-full of papers in my hand, there was nothing he could do but sign off on it. My paperwork was ironclad. I graduated.
I usually tell this story as triumph of early-twenties optimism and outside-the-box thinking, and it is. But it couldn’t have had the happy ending it did without Jeff, who took my oddball idea and calmly laid out the way for it work.
I don’t think I’ve ever thanked him properly for all the guidance he’s given me. I don’t think I ever could.