Learned Behaviors

A Small-College Professor Remembers His Students

By Les Tanner

Photos Courtesy of The College of Idaho

Some years ago, I asked the students in my trigonometry class to help decide what to do about an application for admission. The applicant was on academic suspension from the University of Colorado, after having spent two years in an abortive attempt to become an engineer. The accompanying transcript was dismal. It documented a freshman year of steadily declining grades, followed by two semesters of mathematics, physics, and chemistry courses, nearly all earning Fs. The applicant was close to the end of a two-year stint in the Army, and wrote that he believed he had developed both the maturity and the motivation to succeed in college this time, should he be given a second—actually, a third—chance.

One student’s immediate response was, “No way!” Others agreed, while some felt that the applicant should be allowed to enroll, subject to restrictions.

I finally confessed that the application was not current, but had been submitted to Westminster College in Salt Lake City in the summer of 1955. Not only that, but it was my own application.

Perhaps the admissions committee at Westminster felt there was hope for the applicant, or perhaps the school was desperate for students that year. In any case, my application was approved. I got As in all my courses the following semester, including calculus (my fourth attempt to subdue that particular beast). Thus began my forty-one-year association with small, private, co-educational, liberal arts colleges. I was graduated from Westminster in 1958, and taught there for the next four years. In 1962, we moved to Jamestown College in North Dakota, and in 1979 to The College of Idaho. Those three schools are so similar in most respects that a single “History of ______ College” would describe all three, if it were to contain a few blanks here and there to be filled in with appropriate names and dates.

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Les Tanner

About Les Tanner

Les Tanner is shown here with his late wife, Ruby, to whom he was married for more than sixty years, and who also was on the staff of IDAHO magazine. When Les, a retired teacher, isn’t working on the magazine's calendar, proofreading, fishing, writing, playing pickleball, or pulling weeds, he’s out looking for Jimmy the cat.

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