Remembering Steve Cass

A former student stopped by my office a few days ago. We exchanged greetings and, when she sat down, she said, “I am sorry about Steve.” She graduated more than 8 years ago, but he has had a lasting impact on her and so many other  former students and colleagues who have shared their memories of him with me since he passed away last September.

Today is his birthday so I thinking of him. Our birthdays are within a few days so we always celebrated together – he always gave me flowers and I always gave him a book. One year it was Grayson by Lynne Cox; usually it was the latest Martin Cruz Smith, Ian Rankin, Paul Doiron or Michael Connelly. He loved strong-minded, independent characters such as John Rebus and Hieronymus Bosch. Before there were streaming services in Dhofar, I bought DVDs and shared them with him so we went through many seasons of Vera, Endeavor, George Gently and Shetland. His favorite was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy but he would tolerate the lighter-hearted series I liked such as Brookenwood and Death in Paradise

I teased him that he wanted to see characters who, like him, were fighting ‘the system’ endlessly and alone – he always needed something to push off of, something he to change/ improve. For all his yoga and mediation and walks on the beach, he was the most relentless and restless person I have ever met. He wanted to improve education and he had to be part of that process; no matter what it cost him, he said the truth.

We got along well but we also argued a lot – I would urge him to look at issues practically, to think about what was possible. He only wanted what was best for students. There was no compromise in his soul. If he thought it was the right thing to do, that it would help students learn, then he would do it.

One former student called him “the heart of the department,” a very apt description. He fought tirelessly for our students in both big ways (he created the Learning Support Center) and small. No matter what he was doing at his desk, if he saw a student wandering lost in the department, he would jump up and rush into the hallway to help.

Everyone who knew him is grateful for his kindness, his friendliness, his never-ending quest to make the world better.

He was Don Quixote and I miss him very much.

Steve Cass, teacher and friend