A Teacher’s Influence by Leeza Gibbons

None of us can really know which of the memories we’ve shared with others will last or resonate beyond the moment in time to which they belong, but one of the relationships that seems to withstand the scrutiny of time is that of a teacher and student. It is a thing that endures with a kind of permanence that speaks to how we get to live forever. If a person’s “soulprint” can be found in the lives of those he’s touched, then Dr. Carlos Gibbons and Dr. Lemuel Patterson are shining examples. In the words of Henry Adams, “A Teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops”.

Before building his impressive career, Lemuel Patterson was a student at Lander College (now Lander University) where Carlos Gibbons was his professor. Patterson was one of the few African Americans to matriculate and integrate Lander in the 1970’s. Gibbons had made his mark as the SC Education Association Executive Secretary and in moving the cause of civil rights forward in the state. He received his doctorate in educational psychology and spent a lifetime pursuing excellence in education, which led him to the college classroom where young Lemuel Patterson was a student.

Patterson recalls a professor whose “suaveness and teaching style I mimicked, and they enabled me to build good team leadership while educating teachers, principals and students throughout the Carolinas, Georgia and Cuba”. Gibbons recalls Patterson as being a bright, promising student with a lot of grit.

Who can really know if there was a particular lesson plan or part of the curriculum which impacted Patterson to take the banner of education and carry it through his graduation from Lander, The Wardlaw School, the USC school of Science Education and ultimately, getting his doctorate in educational leadership from South Carolina State University. This was a man on a mission who has dedicated his life to education, just as Gibbons has done.

Now, these two men, Gibbons at 95, and Patterson at 72, stand at a threshold in life where their optics give them a sharp focus on who they are and how they got here. Patterson says “Dr. Gibbons was instrumental in my becoming a great teacher. Being in his class was welcoming, with a genuine humanitarian approach and an opportunity to just feel safe in discussions while building a stronger self-esteem”. Offering that gift of gratitude was validation for Gibbons which allowed him to see that he is continuing to live out his life’s purpose….inspiring the next generations of educational leaders.

Dr. Patterson sought out Dr. Gibbons for no other reason than to say thank you; to let him know that their time together had influenced the direction of his life. Those who witnessed the reunion say Gibbons “lit up like a Christmas tree” upon seeing his former student. This visit after 50 years was one of those random events that underscore value of the intersection of two lives. We get to live forever through the lives of those we have touched, influenced, and loved. That’s not a small thing…that is everything.


Leave a Reply