Miss Seraph Blaisdell

Story By Paul Strobel('43)

Think back. Did you ever have a teacher when you were going to school - elementary, high, or college - whom you respected and looked upon as a fountain of wisdom and as a friend? A teacher who never escaped your memory? One that, even today, you feel occasionally is looking over your shoulder? Well, I did and I want to tell you about her. When I am through telling you about her, I want to "read" something to you. And then you will know why she was so important.

I was in my junior year at SII. Just getting along. Miss Blaisdell had what I thought even then an old first name. Her name was Seraph (not Sara). She had more ways to motivate a student to learn than I sometimes thought there were stars in the heavens.

Once she complimented me on my handwriting. Said it "looked purposeful". Said, with a little effort, I could improve upon it. You're right; my handwriting advanced from indecipherable to almost readable.

Working in the woods (one of our chores) one day a tree was felled and a limb struck me on my back. I fell on a two-bladed ax that I had been using and cut my right wrist badly enough to warrant steel clamps and a sling. Everything was inconvenient and ungovernable. Miss Blaisdell mentioned that I would have to make up a lot of missed book reports, unless I could learn to write with my left hand. She said she knew I could. I did. I can write, somewhat legibly, with both hands even today.

Miss Blaisdell mentioned one day in class that "Paul's book reports were improving considerably" and that she was sure everyone in class could improve their's, also. I did not like to read! Miss Blaisdell required book report after book report. Surprisingly, I began to enjoy reading. She imbued in me a love for knowledge and a special love for inspirational, motivational reading. Miss Blaisdell was more than a teacher; she guided me, quietly and subtlety, in directions that have enabled some worthwhile achievements. As my life has unfolded over the decades I look back with fond memories and deep appreciation and think about a little old lady who wore her grey hair in a bun, looked intensely through silver rimmed spectacles, and dressed in a fresh "frock" each day. Unfortunately, perhaps, she was never aware of the influence she exerted. (Or is she? She is probably still looking over my shoulder.)

I was reading tonight and a particular passage held my attention long after I had read it. I want to "read" it to you. It caused me to think of Miss Blaisdell, Dr. Ward, and all the classes, past, present, and future of our Alma Mater.

"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, - and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry - shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate that happy period."

The aggregate of all the schooling the author of the above had amounted to less than a year. He taught himself, for the most part. Lincoln is quoted more than any of our presidents; only Jefferson comes next.

Remember, participate in and otherwise support your Alma Mater. There are still requirements for a Miss Blaisdell.

Paul S. Strobel ('43)