My Teacher, Jacques Barzun

I
was fortunate to know Jacques Barzun as both a teacher and colleague.
Jacques changed my life from basketball jock to library denizen. So
intoxicated was I by the Trilling-Barzun seminar that I wanted to speak French,
dress like Jacques, and write literate cultural essays about every topic the
mind could conjure. I was hooked, a true Barzun apostle.

Years
later, in 1992, he asked me to write the introduction to the reissued
version of The American University (1967).
I assumed this would be a four- or five-page exercise completed in a few
days. Little did I know. Jacques insisted that I write a history of the
university from ’67 to ’92, a far more formidable task than I anticipated.
However, the opportunity to work with him was a privilege I will never forget.
Once again, he was my instructor forcing me to justify every word. He was a
rigorous taskmaster, demanding but kind.

In
so many respects Jacques Barzun was a model of erudition, common sense and
breathtaking knowledge. Whatever modest attainments I have achieved are due in
no small part to this extraordinary man who was teacher, friend and confidante. 

Herb London

Herb London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.

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