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The Villanova Experience

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

I did not know what “rot” or “curl” were.

I was a Teaching Assistant and by some twist of fate, I was assigned to tutor Emag (Electromagnetism) which dealt with “rot” and “curl”. If I said I had no background in Emag, poof, I would lose my TA slot AND my tuition waiver would vanish. That was NOT an option.

The only path open to me was to learn the stuff myself before offering tutorials. Not that I was too bright; I was actually floundering with my own graduate studies.

Before the day of the first actual tutorial, I pulled an all nighter. When the time came, I proceeded to the third floor tutorial gallery of Tolentine Hall.

Expecting to teach one class, I was about to enter the lecture gallery when I saw four different classes of Electrical Engineering and (perhaps students from) other Departments, gathered inside.

I did a quick uturn, proceeded to the toilet, actually retched, washed my face, composed myself and came back.

I entered the gallery and the students quieted down. Introducing myself, I took a chalk and began writing on the board. My chalk squeaked. And from behind me came some vocal squeaks.

I knew I needed to nip this in the bud, or things would spiral out of control. I turned to the class, and found the wherewithal to say, “Some of you will need the information I’m about to dispense. Those who know you will not need it can leave. I have no objections at all. Give the first group an opportunity to understand.”

It is a good catholic school with good catholic pupils. There were no more vocal squeaks after that.

I borrowed the technique of my favorite professor of asking questions on a topic before proposing solutions on it. The class then became moderately interactive.

Much later, I found that I had solved a problem incorrectly on my first day at the board. No one corrected me, and it was too late for me to correct it also.

Last year (25 odd years later) I accompanied my wife to Philadelphia. While she was busy working, I visited Tolentine Hall (and made sure I also visited that nefarious toilet).

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