Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Joe Sullivan. A Tribute.

I will start with one of his favorite words:
which means "Full of sadness or sorrow, especially in an exaggerated or insincere way."
He used this word in probably my very first class with him. He did not offer the definition of it. That wasn't his point in uttering it. He shared this word for the pure joy of saying it. Of writing it.
Joe Sullivan made it his job at West High School in my home town of Manchester, NH to show us the power and beauty of words.
He was my creative writing teacher in my senior year. Until his class, it had never occurred to me that I may have something to say. Most of us go our entire lives and never write for the sheer joy of the creative process.
Joe did not harangue you about rules of composition. He taught you to write simply, effectively. But above all, he wanted you to tell your story. When he read the student's work aloud at the front of the class, he did so with supreme relish. In a sense, he viewed your work as a gift to him and he made sure to appreciate it and share it with everyone. That was a very powerful message to give to a student like me.
The things I learned under his guidance I have used every single day of my life. His lessons went beyond the written word.

  • Creativity. Tell your story, however you may. No matter the form, get it out into the universe.
  • Generosity of spirit. Recognize the gift that is a story. Make sure to share it with others.
  • Bravery. It takes guts to share yourself in written word. Have courage, and in so doing, encourage others.

He loved the word lugubrious, but I don't believe it fit the man. There was nothing exaggerated or insincere in the feelings he inspired in others. Sorrowful or sad? I don't know that the man was capable of frowning. His lexicon would be more accurately derived from his favorite word's antonyms:
Cheerful. Heartwarming. Lighthearted. Joyful. Encouraging.
This is my tribute, pale as it is, to an artist, educator and friend. You have left this world a better place than you found it. You enriched the lives of those who had the honor to know you. And you have empowered an entire generation with the courage to express themselves.
From my family to yours. Thanks, Joe.

Joseph C. Sullivan
Feb 14, 1944-Sept 23, 2013

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