Mel Pollner Eulogies
Mel Pollner

November 7, 2007
David Goode

I've read what others have written about Mel and it was great to read such deservedly high praise. It comes as no surprise and I won't repeat what has already been said.

I guess I claim the privilege of being Mel's first Ph.D. student. I think I am correct in that. He began as my Chair even though he did not end up signing my Dissertation in that capacity.

I was 26 when I studied with Mel. I am almost 60 now. I have almost 35 years to consider a person who was foundational in making me intellectually and personally who I am.

I have too many intense memories and words really cannot serve to convey what Mel meant to me.

But here is one, and I will limit myself to one as it conveys what I want to say about Mel. I think I may have been the first grad student to see Leslie, right after she was back from the hospital. I called Mel and said I wanted to come and see Leslie. She was asleep when I arrived. Mel and I talked briefly and went in to the bedroom off the kitchen, where she slept. I remember the details of being in that room. I remember how we were so quiet, we tiptoed, trying not to make a sound and were completely in awe of her. I remember the conversation in the kitchen afterwards. It was about how powerful Leslie was in determining our behavior in that room. It was about what 'power' meant, and what 'power' children have and do not have. It was this way with Mel; little distinction between the personal and the intellectual.

I see clearly now how his capacity to bridge the personal and intellectual helped sustain me in my dissertation research. Because of the kind of work I did while under his supervision, i.e., participant-observation at a state hospital ward for children born deaf and blind, it was this ability that attracted me to him as a mentor. He came through in spades for me. It was the hardest research I have ever done in my career as a sociologist, and it was Mel that guided me through it.

Without Mel I would not have been the person or professional that I am today. I think he knew this without me saying it in so many words. I don't think I ever did say it in that way to him and I am sad that I never had this opportunity. I spoke to him in August last and it was not clear what was going to happen. Had I known, I would have told him what I am telling you all now.

So, its good that I have a chance to write this to everyone else instead. We are united in the memory a great man.