I read with fondness, interest, and appreciation “Portrait of a Teacher: George Drake ’56.” In your listing of his roles at Grinnell, you omitted, in my opinion, perhaps his best role: exemplary mentor. Though that role is likely implicit in many, or perhaps all, of the listed roles, it was the one that had lasting effect upon me.
My senior year was my only year of overlap with President Drake, and it got off to a bad start. Shortly before the start of fall semester, he decided to change the long-planned date of Parents’ Weekend so that it would fall on a weekend with more sports activities, if I recall. When I received that announcement I was crushed — my parents had planned on coming to their first (and only) of my years at Grinnell.
As soon as I got to Grinnell I went to meet President Drake and explain my displeasure: how he screwed up our long-anticipated plans, how my parents have very busy schedules and now can’t come, and further, scheduling it on the weekend of Rosh Hashanah was thoughtless, at best.
By his response and thus his modeling, President Drake taught me that leaders make mistakes [he didn’t change the weekend], and the best ones admit it, apologize, and do their best to rectify the situation. He did so with class, sincerity, and respect toward me, and my parents.
Throughout my career, when I found myself needing to recover from my own blunders, I have often replayed President Drake’s example in my head. I did so with the hope that I was a good-enough student of my one “class” with President Drake.