Iguanas eat apples because pears give rickets. To you, that may not mean much, but to anyone who ever took Doc Reece’s History of Israel class, the significance is immediately clear. Almost 20 years after taking this class, I still remember this mnemonic device to remember the order of empires in the ancient world (Israel, Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome). Like so many others, this is one lesson I learned from Doc that will always stay with me.
I’m in mourning today because Doc passed away from cancer yesterday. Even though it was not unexpected, it is tough news to bear, and the grief is very heavy for me.
I learned a lot from Doc, and not just information about the ancient world and the Old Testament. He taught me a lot about life. His enthusiasm for his subject is one of the reasons that I took every class of his that I could, and it’s largely responsible for my love of the Old Testament today. He taught me not only to be passionate but also to share that passion with others.
When he took attendance in every class, if someone wasn’t there, he would shake his head and say, “Not a good day to miss.” He said that for every student that wasn’t there. And he truly believed it. He approached each class session with purpose, never phoning it in, which taught me to find the purpose in every moment and focus on that purpose.
He called me Lee Bob, for no particular reason other than his own quirky amusement. My buddies and I played the this game that we called black hole. You may be familiar with it because it’s still going around today. It’s the game where you make a circle with your thumb and forefinger, and if somebody looks at it, you get the punch them. Except in our game if you looked, you had to lay down wherever you were. It was an interesting twist on the game, especially if you were outside in the rain. We talked Doc into participating briefly, and he even got one of our friends in the middle of class. He taught me not to take life too seriously, to have fun and enjoy life.
My friends and I went to his church, even though it was almost an hour drive from campus. I loved listening to his sermons. One day, as we were leaving service, he was standing at the door shaking hands with people as they left. When it was my turn to pass, he grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “You are the champion.” Nothing more. Just those words, probably with that characteristic mischievous grin of his. He always seemed to know how to say just the right words to encourage and empower others. He taught me to find the good in everyone and not just keep it to myself, but to empower and build up that good in them.
There are so many other stories to tell. I will never be able to listen to the Doxology without picturing a darkened classroom and him leading us in a round before leaving class. Every time I read the Suffering Servant passage from Isaiah, I will think of the days that I spent memorizing the entire thing for his Prophets class. He was a ping pong legend on campus.
Even though Doc is no longer physically with us, his legacy carries on through people like me, who take his lessons to heart and pass them along. I will always think that it’s not a good day to miss my class. I will work to empower my students to make the best use of their potential. I will try to not take things too seriously and enjoy being in my classroom in the presence of my students, and hopefully they’ll do the same. After all, isn’t that what we, as educators, are supposed to do? Educate, empower, and build up the next generation to be the best they can possibly be? I hope that my words live on in my students.
Thanks for all the lessons, Doc. I love you, and I miss you. Until we meet again on the other side.