Although we all know that death is inevitable, we are still seldom fully prepared for the death of someone who has been important in our lives. So it was with the recent death of Dr. Marie D. Gadsden, at the age of 92.
Mrs. Gadsden's only official connection with me was that she taught me freshman English at Howard University, more than half a century ago. But she and Professor Sterling Brown were my two idols when I was a student there — and both remained so for the rest of my life.
Mrs. G, as I came to call her in later years, was not only a good teacher, and a demanding teacher, but also one with kindness toward her students. I can still remember one very rainy night when a young lady from her class and I were walking up the street together from Howard University, when a car suddenly pulled over to the curb, a door was flung open and we were invited to get in. It was Mrs. Gadsden.
When I decided that I wanted to transfer to Harvard, both Mrs. G and Sterling Brown wrote strong letters of recommendation for me — letters that may have had more to do with my getting admitted than my mediocre grades, as a night student who was carrying too many courses for someone who worked full time during the day.
Mrs. G put me in touch with a lady she knew in Cambridge, who rented me a room, and also put me in touch with a lovely young woman who was a student at Radcliffe. Mr. Gadsden, her husband whom I had come to know by this time, said to me: "Oh, Tom, now she is picking out your women for you!" He had a great sense of humor.
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Thomas Sowell (photo)