In Memory of Dr. Tom Fanney

By John Wang

You know what - I don't believe he is gone. I told my colleagues that it seems like Tom is still in his home or hospital, or somewhere else. I am thinking soon I may talk to him again, face to face, because NOW, he may be still sick. And I will wait ... surely this will happen, sooner or later... we will meet again.

At this moment, I imagine he may be in the air, so I talked to the air -- "Tom, now you are free, finally free of pain". Tom told me he hoped to visit China one day... NOW he may be there, in the sky over Beijing, on the mountain near Xi-an. In many cities of China, pollution is a big problem. I want to tell him to take care of himself, and don't get sick...

When I was in the campus interview, and after Nathan showed me some technology rooms in Clarke, I  was to meet Dr. Fanney under the Tower. When I went there, no one was there. I was wondering maybe that I went the wrong place. Then I found two people coming: one was older and when he walked, he went up and down because of his leg illness; another was a young man (later I found out he was Abe, Dr. Fanney's advisee). I remembered the young man listening in Clarke 125 when I gave the talk but I did not relate him to Dr. Fanney I was supposed to meet with. I was to meet one person only - Dr. Fanney, and he would show me the streets in Virginia Beach. So I thought they might just pass by. Then I asked the older one and showed him the schedule sheet, "Excuse me, is this the Tower?". He took the schedule sheet and looked carefully for a few minutes (seemed that long) and said, "Yes. It is". Then it seemed he knew nothing about my interview and asked me: "Who are you looking for?". "I am waiting for Dr. Fanney and I came here for an interview". "Are you? ... Let's go". Oh, I finally found out he was Dr. Fanney and he was joking with me in our first meeting.

On one day in January, I went to Dr. Fanney's office and tried to find out how his treatment was going. Fortunately he was there and just wanted to leave. ... We left his office together. I saw his face was pale and yellow, then I joked with him: "You become an Asian and your face looks yellow". He laughed and replied, "because of the liver" ...

I wanted to be a good teacher. One day in my first fall in VWC, I was in his office and asked him how to teach efficiently. He showed me a vivid example. "Teaching is just like serving in a restaurant. People coming to eat are hoping to eat good food. We need to serve the best food we can".  I saw Dr. Fanney was very close to his students and they are like friends, so I asked him about how to deal with the relationship with students. He said, "You treat them like friends, so they don't become afraid of you. They may approach you and tell you what they are thinking and tell you their suggestions. But you can not be too close, otherwise it is hard to grade them".


Originally written in Feb. 2005

Wednesday, April 11, 2018