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  • Paul Cumbo

Living Deliberately - A Tribute

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a "last lecture" offered by Dr. Robert Butler, who is (mostly) retiring after 52 years of service at Canisius College. He offered some enlightening and entertaining perspectives on Henry David Thoreau's Walden, building his talk around the concept of "living deliberately." He invited us to consider that Walden isn't just an idyllic pond in New England. "Walden is a state of mind," he said.

Bob was my undergraduate academic advisor, and eventually my honors thesis advisor. I took several of his courses, including a small-cohort fiction seminar and an independent study in contemporary literature. He helped us understand the power and beauty of writing. As he said last night, quoting C.S. Lewis, "We read to seek an enlargement of our being."

He helped me navigate the most turbulent period of my life as I approached my twenties. He modeled "living deliberately," and helped me come to understand what that meant. Twenty years later, I'm still working on it, and I hope that doesn't change. Bob is also one of the mentors who encouraged me, both through his own ethical appeal and directly, to become a teacher and writer.

(Twenty years later, I'm still working on that, too.)

Last night, near the end of his talk, Dr. Butler said something that resonated deeply, and I won't forget it. He said that throughout his vocation as a teacher, "I've always been grateful to know that who I am and what I do are the same."

If that's not living deliberately, I'm not sure what is.

Thank you, Bob, for your guidance, wisdom, friendship, and many years of service to a place that helped many of us figure out who we are called to be.


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