I recently heard the sad news that one of my favorite high school teachers, Ruth Conroy passed away. She taught Middle East / Far East History (ME/FE) at Villa Duchesne, and was one of the most influential teachers I have ever had. I wish I could proficiently summarize everything I learned in her class. Unfortunately, my memory is not likely to accurately detail the cultural, geographical, and historical facts and figures of the Eastern part of our world. In her honor, I wish I could sit down and plot out the various cities, rivers, and countries. Or, perhaps I could discuss the five pillars of Islam, or the difference between the Sunni vs Shiite branches of Islam. Or, I would love to rehash the various Chinese Dynasties and rulers, or compare and contrast Eastern religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
But perhaps more important than the details, facts, and figures, I am so thankful that her class taught us to open our hearts and minds. She inspired us to gain a greater understanding of the unique, fascinating, and dynamic aspects of Eastern cultures Americans so rarely seem to appreciate. She taught us to read American media with a cynical perspective, always to question the ever-present Western bias, whether there may be more to the story. She challenged us to be open minded to cultures that seem so different to ours, and to ultimately value and respect them. She had the unique ability to make these cultures, religions and mindsets relatable, believable, and respectable, particularly in the face of our Western prejudices and stereotypes. She had a great, witty, dry sense of humor, that made the class engaging and interesting. She was challenging, yet kind and fair.
I cannot think of many other classes that have taught me so much in life, beyond the academics of the classroom. Particularly given the recent tragic events, and current heated political climate of relations with the Middle East, I try to keep a sympathetic and compassionate point of view when I learn about the struggles of these nations.
Although they are big shoes to fill, I can only hope someone can carry on the legacy of her teachings at Villa. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends as her life is celebrated in a memorial mass this week.
On behalf of Villa's alumnae...
Mrs. Conroy, we will forever miss your teachings and we are endlessly thankful for your hard work, dedication, and care you have given us throughout your career.
Sincerely your former Villa students ; )
Villa Grads, what was your favorite memory of Mrs. Conroy?