Former Student Remembers Professor London.
Pennsylvania College of Technology's "My Last Words" lecture series - which asks faculty who have been nominated by students to relay what they would tell students if they knew it was their last chance to speak to them - was renamed in David A. London's memory. The first lecture of Fall 2008 featured Sandra Lakey, associate professor of speech communications/composition and one of London's closest friends and colleagues. Hundreds attended the inspirational tribute and tearful remembrance.
Just after the announcement of London's death in May, students paid tribute to the late professor by creating a Facebook group that attracted 157 members and 22 posts paying their respect and praising London's sense of humor and the wisdom he imparted.
It was a quiet Monday evening, and I had just finished my dinner and was getting ready to offer evening prayers as my phone rang. "Hello," I answered. It was Dr. Abdul Pathan, economics professor at Penn College. We exchanged greetings, and then Dr. Pathan said, "I do not know how to tell you, but David London passed away this past weekend." I felt a lump in my throat, and I could not speak for a few moments; I could not believe what I had just heard. When I came to my senses, I realized that my "American dad" had passed away. I adopted David London as a father, and he adopted me as his "Pakistani son" while I was studying at Penn College between 1991 and 1995. During my years at Penn College, I came to know David London as an incredible teacher, a champion of cultural diversity and a self-sacrificing friend.
First and foremost, David London was an unbelievable teacher - a natural! His teaching style was very dynamic; he kept his students engaged through student-teacher and student-student discussions. His classes were filled with invigorating debates and provided stimulus for critical thinking. Students were exposed to real-life experiences as they compiled reports for organizational behavior classes by engaging with local business individuals or went through an interview process to strengthen techniques taught in public-speaking classes.
I consider myself blessed and truly lucky to have started my educational journey at Penn College with David London in English Composition I - the class that gave me the confidence that I desperately needed to successfully complete my studies at Penn College. To fully appreciate the experience, you have to envision that you are a 21-year-old who has left his hometown for the first time and traveled halfway across the world for an education in a language that is not your mother tongue. Now top it all off with David London as a teacher - what a bad combination - right - at least that's what I thought during the first couple classes. But then the unthinkable happened - I got an "A" on my English paper. At the end of the class, I approached David London and asked, "Did you give me this 'A' because I have a handicap for English language?" He replied, "I never give an 'A'; you earned it." At that moment, I was on top of the world, and I knew I would do "just fine." I share this story simply because it was a confidence-boosting moment in my life, and the credit goes to David London. Needless to say, I took every class that David London offered at Penn College during 1991-95, including summer courses; I enjoyed all classes equally because I learned from him that "if I can support my argument, I am right."
I came to Williamsport at a time when cultural diversity was in its early stages of development at Penn College. David London was among the people who not only recognized that cultural diversity should be strengthened but also embarked on a journey to introduce and promote it among students at Penn College. He invited me to his classes to speak about my origin and my culture, sparking curiosity in student minds. The classroom sessions led to discussions outside class - in the cafeteria and the library - building a healthy atmosphere. During student interactions, I felt that it was difficult for some American students to pronounce my last name, so I told a couple of them to call me "Bob." Well, the word got to David London, and I had to listen to a lecture myself. He told me, "If you can pronounce their names correctly, they should be able to pronounce yours, too." He reminded me that my name was my identity and a tie back to my origin and culture. Since that day, I have made a conscious effort to discourage everyone who asks for my nickname.
David London brought his mission of promoting cultural diversity to Williamsport by organizing discussions at the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary clubs and area schools, and I was right there beside him. His vision and work have helped create a diversity-aware and friendly Williamsport community that has seen many foreign students since 1991.
David London nurtured a young Pakistani in such a way that a student-teacher relationship was transformed into a father-son relationship. I have many fond memories of joyous family get-togethers with David London, his mother and his son Patrick. I have spent many Thanksgivings and Christmases with the London family. After my marriage, my wife became David London's daughter-in-law. My oldest son became the first grandson of David London, and I still remember the day he held my middle son in his arms. I know I am not the only one who saw that side of David London; I know of many who became part of David London's extended family. His nature compelled him to help many without any desire of a favor in return. He helped whoever needed his help. During my early days at Penn College, when I did not have a car and a very dear friend from home was visiting Pittsburgh, David London graciously offered his car so I could see my friend. This is just one example among countless ones that reflect David London's selfless friendship.
As I write these lines, I am heartbroken to realize that those of you who did not have the opportunity to know David London will not get to meet one of the greatest assets of Penn College or to sit in David London's class and experience what I experienced. Even so, you too can make a difference by continuing David London's mission: "Work hard and achieve your goals" - because that is what he would have taught you to do.
About the Author
Adnan Syed, a native of Pakistan, was a student at Penn College between 1991 and 1995. He graduated with an associate degree in computer information systems in 1992 and with a bachelor's degree in data communication and networking in 1995. After graduating, Syed began working for American Home Products, now part of ConAgra Foods; he is currently a senior systems administrator. He and his wife, Erum, live in Omaha, Neb., with their three sons. He authored this remembrance exclusively for One College Avenue, with the support of Sandra Lakey, associate professor of speech communication and composition.
About David London
Associate professor of speech communication/composition David A. London died Saturday, May 3, at the age of 57. London, who joined the Penn College faculty in 1990, was a popular teacher, a former chair of College Council and a strong proponent of the internal governance system. [press release]
At the time of his death, a college lecture series was renamed the "David London My Last Words Lecture Series" in his honor. The first lecture in the 2008-09 series was scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 18, in the Klump Academic Center. "This will be a fitting legacy for David and his work across campus to positively influence students and our greater community," the president said. [press release]
In addition, the School of Integrated Studies' communication and literature department announced plans to establish a student scholarship in his name through the Penn College Foundation. More information is available by calling the foundation at 570-320-8020.
Contributions to the David A. London Scholarship Fund can be made online at www.pct.edu/giving or by calling 866-GIVE-2-PC or mailing to
Penn College Foundation, DIF 65
One College Avenue
Williamsport, PA 17701