Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Since I am not likely to receive another letter like the one,I hope that the readers of this blog will indulge this little ego trip. Back in the 60's and early 70's, I taught school: English and drama. One of my favorite subjects was Classical Mythology and I gave Apollo, Sigfred and Tristram far more time than they deserved. It sometimes got me in trouble, but when I had a good class and attentive students, I couldn't resist. I remember one class that became so caught up in the Greeks and Germans, they held a "Myth Day" and the entire school was filled with mythical beings: I still remember seeing Cupid and Psyche in studyhall, Thor eating lunch with his hammer by his plate, Zeus dragging his thurnder-bolt down the hall. That was a long time ago, and I have proved to be an irritation to a dozen "administrators" since then. But, this morning, feeling a bit bleak and lonely, I checked my e-mail. Well, I'll let the letter speak for itself.

Dear Mr. Carden,
This is a message I should have written to you long ago. It has to do with your influence on those you taught. I, too, am a teacher (at Oxford College of Emory University for 30 years--just retired in January of this year). Not one day in my classes did I pass without reference to what you gave us, and when I would answer the questions of my students (always delighted when we were on that subject), I would tell them that I was lucky enough to have a teacher who readied his students in the strongest way possible--by, in my own personal case, giving us two years of studies in mythology!

My specialty in scholarship is medieval French studies. It has taken me to the very highest echelons of academia, from Harvard to the Sorbonne. I say this because, Mr. Carden, without your influence, my climb would have been much more difficult. My accomplishments have come from publications on a work related to Celtic mythology--a fourteenth-century romance called Melusine.
I'm attaching a link to this message showing the bookcover of my latest volume (co-authored with a professor in France). In the illustration you see Melusine in the form of a winged dragon hovering above the Chateau de Lusignan. She is the legendary ancestor of the Lusignan family--kings of Jerusalem, Cypress, and Armenia. (It's the same dragon you can see in the Tres Riches Heures du Dud de Berry, the illustration for the month of March).

Dianne Smith Monroe has kept me informed about your activities; she communicates with me from time to time. One of the things she told me about you was your involvement in a project with one of the greatest actresses ever--one ever present in my psyche as a result of her roles in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Ray Bradbury's "The Jar." I said to my wife, when Dianne informed us, "Who else in the world would be involved with her but Gary Carden!"

As I said at the beginning of this message, this is a belated "Thank you!" On my desk there is a photograph of Notre Dame Cathedral, a gift from one of my students who went on to become an architect. She typed out a little ribbon to serve as caption underneath. It says as follows: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Well, that goes double for me to you--in spades! Every moment of my career--my successes (never my failures!) have rested on what I learned from you, Mr. Carden.

With great appreciation,
Buddy (Matthew) Morris

P.S. My wife, Susan, has been after me to write this for many years, having constantly heard references to you throughout our marriage of 42 years.


  1. How wonderful, Gary! I have also been a teacher and have received a few of these lovely. long after thhe fact, letters. Which just reminds me of how important it is to say thank you -- even years and years later.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to you, Gary, especially the mythology connection and influence through so many years.

  3. It makes you feel good to receive an accolade like that; because, the teacher may forget how he graded the student, but the student never forgets how he graded the teacher.

  4. That's gotta make you feel good to hear something like that especially the way most folks would view the teaching of mythology. It just goes to show the importance of a good liberal arts education.

    I think that's why I ended up blacksmithing was that I got instant feedback at the end of the day when I could look down at the shop floor and see a pile of stuff that I had made that day. And I felt even better when someone bought them from me.

  5. Dave,
    Yeah, that is what a friend of mine calls "validating your parking ticket."

  6. This letter had to please you!!! Surely you know what an impact you made on the lives of those "kids" in Cartersville that hung on your every word........DiAnne Monroe

  7. Thank you, Dianne. I know that it was a wonderful time in my life when anything seemed possible. Are there any other voices from the past out there?

  8. Hey Gary!!!

    What a tribute...I stand in awe of you (as always) and of Buddy for giving it up!!!

    No way I could just stand in the wings while the house offers up one of those sudden on- their-feet tributes they sometimes jump up for. You put your stamp on dozens and dozens of us, and some of us NEVER forgot what you told us about so that it stuck long after class…long after high school…and college…and through so many different careers that dragged us to every corner of the world. I didn’t do much teaching (the world might offer thanks for that) in my time, but I read, and I did write…and I did tread the boards, and every time I did them, I remembered when you first showed us…and I loved it…so I owe you a pile of thank yous. Thank you so much.

    Hope you’ll come to our class reunion next year!

    Spike Guilbeau, CHS class of 1960

  9. Spike,
    Maybe I will. I'm old and feeble and in my dotage, but I would love to come to the Class of 1960 Reunion.

  10. Gary-- you already know what an impact you had on me and my great love for the written word and the drama of promoting it. I did teach , as a matter of fact, 5 years of Speech and Drama and senior English just after college, and I never got in front of a class that I didn't try to remember how "Mr. Carden did it." Every hour produced an opportunity to not only teach those young minds something but to instill them with the love of the sounds, the memories they invoked, the beauty of the writer's talents and messages. Good teaching requires a certain amount of acting; great teaching requires a great actor and that, my friend, is exactly what you were. What a wonderful time in life to have someone like you enter it> Your love of literature and drama, your personal style in interpreting it, your commitment to protecting the integrity of it, are all a part of what made it , and you, so memorable and so imbedded in those important recesses of our minds. Who else would teach " Other Voices, Other Rooms" to a teenager in the "60's??? Much affection, Carlee Bell

  11. Wow, Carlee!
    When I cross over to the great summer stock in the sky, you can do my eulogy. i'm gratified and amazed.

  12. Gary,

    Have you ever wondered why I keep dropping by periodically to share a cholestrol packed meal with you? Spending time with you is like going back to a place where the world seemed safe and there were many things to talk about and much to learn about what awaited a teenager from Cartersville in the outside world. Thanks for loaning me all those books and sharing your love for the arts and literature. Haardly a day passes without hearing you hold forth in the back of my mind. We love you man!


  13. Gary Neil,

    You are simply the best!