Although I never got to know Prof. Doyno outside of the classroom, no man made so substantial an impact on my development as a teacher.
College English faculty tend to be a curmudgeonly bunch. When a professor befriends you, in my experience, it usually feels as though he’s somehow stepping out of character—that, while ornery on principle, he’s willing to make an exception in your case.
Not so for Prof. Doyno. Never has a mind been so cultivated, yet so quietly humane.
He’d playfully squirt a cheap water gun at anyone who fumbled a bit of Chaucer pronunciation.
During finals, Prof. Doyno would individually collect our finished exams, which were astonishingly thorough and arduous for the burgeoning scholar. With a warm handshake, he would say to each student, earnestly: “Congratulations on completing a very demanding exam. Do you feel as though I have been fair?”
I once had to miss his class to return home for Passover. Prof. Doyno not only allowed the absence, but he insisted that I not be placed at any disadvantage because of religious observance. He matter-of-factly made plans for me to visit his office upon my return, so that he might deliver his lecture to me personally.
Now, Prof. Doyno would recite a good deal of poetry to us (those 2.5-hour classes left plenty of time for it), and would often cry if he came upon a particularly affecting bit.
Sitting in his tiny, book-stuffed office, mano e mano, he prefaced a particular Shakespeare sonnet by announcing that it was a favorite of his much-loved grandfather, who derived considerable strength from it during his final illness.
Of course, I was slightly horrified as his lower lip began to quiver. And tears don’t necessarily indicate either virtue or depth of feeling—were it otherwise, The Jerry Springer Show would be Plato’s Academy.
Nevertheless, it would dawn on me over the next few years, as I myself became a teacher, that Prof. Doyno was revealing a particular sort of sensitivity that seldom coexists with world-class erudition. When it does, however, you’ve got a teacher uniquely equipped to communicate the full reality of literature.
Requiescat in pace.