Mel Pollner Eulogies
Mel Pollner

November 8, 2007
Bob Garot

I came to know Mel as a sophomore through his mental illness course in the mid-80's, and stayed with him, or he with me, through and beyond the dissertation. Thank you Mel, you changed me. You gave me something I wasn't sure I was looking for, and am not sure I can express. Perhaps I can find it again in something you wrote. You'll always be with me; I've thought of your words often. And I've thought of your manner, your presence. Weren't you ever nervous or uptight? Not that I could see. What was your secret?

Over tea in the North Campus dining center, Mel would buy those absurdly large muffins, but he could never finish them, so he would offer the rest to the person he was sitting with, or the squirrels. On one such afternoon, I think in my second year of grad. school, I confided my anxieties about not knowing what I could do with ethnomethodology. Without missing a beat (perhaps he had heard this question before), I think he quoted Heidegger when he told me to "Ask not what you can do with philosophy, but what philosophy can do with you." So in the answer was another question, and perhaps this is part of what made him so perfect for academia, such a perfect teacher: maddeningly slippery yet irresistible. You could never quite pin Mel down, but you wouldn't want to. More than anything, he was someone to appreciate. I could listen to Mel for hours--his voice had a melody. I miss him very much.