Friday, May 7, 2010

In Memoriam: Gary Hatch

Gary Hatch's funeral was today. He was a professor of Rhetoric and Composition at BYU, and, for the past several years, an administrator who oversaw first-year writing courses on campus.  Our paths crossed regularly, first when we were both faculty members teaching a lot of general education courses, and later as administrators while I was with Freshman Academy, BYU's learning community initiative and he with First-Year Writing.

Gary was unlike most administrators I know (and very much unlike the administrators I knew at BYU).  Though he had all the intellectual bona fides that open the doors to administration at the Y (he was an Honors student as an undergraduate, a well-respected scholar, and a faithful member of the LDS church), he always seemed a bit foreign to the administrative culture of the campus.  That was to his good.

Gary was omnivorous.  At his funeral two types of stories drove home this point.  The first was about his reading.  He read passionately, and he read everything--scholarly works on the theory and practice of writing, the classics, science fiction, young adult novels, religious works.  And he ate omnivorously.  Though he loved to travel in Europe, his food passions were American.  Two speakers told the story of Gary's gastronomic goal: to eat at every diner along the length of US 89--the two-lane highway that runs from Utah's northern to its southern border.

Gary loved young people.  In the end, it was this love that drove his decisions about academics.  He became the Associate Dean responsible for first-year writing because he loved working with young people.  He became a national leader in the Advanced Placement world, eventually becoming chief grader for the AP English test because of his hope that writing could help young people lead richer lives.

The audience at his funeral bore out this love.  Beyond family and colleagues there were hundreds of young people--many of whom looked like former students, and dozens of whom were young men in Boy Scout uniforms.  For most of his adult life his responsibility in the LDS congregation where he attended was to work with young men.  He took them camping and hiking, he helped them earn merit badges, he befriended them, he taught them about what it means to be a good man in a hard world.

So while any gathering of administrators was peopled with motivations of all sorts, Gary was always grounded in his love for students.  This love, and his wide knowledge, made him a clear thinker, calm in the face of things that appeared to be crises, and ready always to return to higher education's high purpose--shaping people by exposing them to the best thinking of human kind and to the best possibilities of human life.

He left behind a wife and three children.

1 comment:

Boireannach said...

Thank you for this great tribute to Gary. I don't know if you remember me but I worked with Gary in the English Comp Office but am now working in GE in the Maeser Building. Gary's office is right next door to mine; I ended up following him over to Undergraduate Education. He was a great mentor and supporter, encouraging me finish my master's degree. I will miss him a lot. (Deirdre Paulsen passed your blog on to me.)