I was in the car and heard on the radio that Professor Martin Sherwin had passed away – and I’ll admit I did a double-take – the name rang bells all over the place, but the person they were talking about seemed really famous and I thought maybe it was a coincidence until they said he’d taught at George Mason.
Got home and googled, and sure enough, the second I saw a photo of him, I realized that yes, this was my Professor. I knew he was considered a big get for the university, but somehow never realized he was a “multi-page obituary in the Post and announcement on the radio” big get.
He was a Cold War guy and my class was on the Cuban Missile Crisis and it was fantastic. So many, “wait, what?” moments in weekly readings and my research. Thanks to having to spend some time in special collections at the university, I also discovered that a relative of mine has a whole file there.
I did write this about him at the time:
I really genuinely like the professor, even if he is contributing to my slowly losing my mind over the past 3 months. He’s obviously incredibly smart, wants the students to do well, and actually has a rather charming personality in a bit of a Columbo kind of way.
The paper damn near sent me over the edge – so much rewriting and retooling, but he was always willing to help me get things going in the right direction, and the end product did well enough to get me an A in the class if I recall correctly – and I *liked* what I wrote to boot.
I was probably never sufficiently deferential to his status in the history world, but he also didn’t seem to ever require it – he was just happy to be there with us and watching us learn. When we had to present our papers at the end of the semester, he brought us all to his house and plied us with food and wine before our readings. He was always Professor Marty.
If there is an afterlife, there is no doubt in my mind he has Kennedy, Oppenheimer, Khrushchev and Castro in a room and is questioning them all.