Magazine Feature / People

Student-professor bond survives decades

photo portrait

Arthur Gilbert

Once in a while a student and professor just click. That was the case for International Studies Professor Arthur Gilbert and Steve Wallace (MA ’66). Gilbert interviewed Wallace as part of the admission screening process in 1964. That fall, Wallace took Gilbert’s American Diplomatic History course, and they discovered a common background.

Neither had grown up with money. Gilbert’s father, Louis, was a junk man and mother, Anne, was a secretary. Wallace was able to attend GSIS only because of a fellowship. Gilbert appreciated how hard Wallace worked to make good grades. Wallace, in turn, says Gilbert made an impression.

“Dr. Gilbert’s enlivened and compelling classroom engagement, accentuated by a vibrant personality and keen sense of humor, animated his students and heightened their collective interest, motivation and participation,” Wallace says.

Although they weren’t particularly close while Wallace studied at DU, the two stayed in touch over the years. Wallace would visit Gilbert during his trips back home throughout his 35-year career as an officer in the U.S. Foreign Service. And recently Wallace worked with the University’s Planned Giving office to honor his connection with his former professor by leaving $50,000 in his will for the Arthur N. Gilbert Fellowship in honor of Louis and Anne Gilbert, Professor Gilbert’s parents.

“Over the years we have received gifts in the name of faculty members. Regular people can do what Mr. Wallace is doing,” says Scott Lumpkin from Planned Giving, who helped Wallace establish the fellowship.

Wallace envisions the fund helping students who wouldn’t otherwise have the means to attend. He says he both wanted to reciprocate the support he found so crucial and to honor Gilbert’s “legendary tenure” at DU.

And legendary it is. Gilbert, who’s been a professor at DU since 1961, says he’s taught 20,000–30,000 students in that time. He learned to teach not from educators, but comedians like George Carlin and Victor Borge. Today’s standup comedians like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher inspire him because, he says, “the secret of communication is getting people to laugh.”

His courses on international politics tie into modern themes that students can easily relate to, like Godfathers, Goodfellas and Reservoir Dogs, in which gangster movies provide fodder for discussion.

“I love teaching and students. I’m never going to retire. If I can manage it, I want to die in a classroom,” Gilbert says.

But classrooms aren’t the only places Gilbert teaches. He takes students on field trips, such as a foray to the ballet this fall to see Dracula. He says it’s important to remember that education is not just what’s learned on a campus.

“You have to reach beyond to give students community,” he says.

Comments are closed.