My memories of Professor Doughty

William Wehrs

It was with a heavy heart that I learned of Dr. Ross Doughty’s passing on March 28, 2018. Dr. Doughty once wrote that “The best classroom instructors demonstrate, consistently and persistently, a personal investment, an intense professorial commitment to their students. In short, they are passionate about what and how they teach. Students sense the authentic and respond.” Dr. Doughty always represented these values in every class I took with him.

I have always considered there to be two kinds of good teachers. Those who are strict and have high standards, and those who convey the material in a fun and engaging way. Dr. Doughty was the rare example of someone who was able to combine both of those qualities. He expected more from his students than most professors did. His pop quizzes made me take voluminous amounts of notes, and his questions in class always kept you on your toes. He was not afraid to cold-call those who were not talking, and thus everyone was expected to contribute.

Yet, his classes were always highly enjoyable. When he cold-called someone, he would usually crack a joke beforehand so one never felt as if one were being belittled. Dr. Doughty was an encyclopedia of information: he could always easily expand on any material discussed in the book purely from memory. He also had a flair for visuals; every class would feature a map on the subject we were discussing that day, and he would never miss an opportunity to gesticulate vociferously at the map.

Dr. Doughty was also always exceptionally kind with his time outside the classroom. I could always find a time to meet with him to discuss my paper when, again, he would impress me mightily with his memory. For example, one semester I wanted to write a paper on Vichy France; purely from memory, he mentioned three to five titles which all proved to be invaluable for my paper. He would also almost always have students turn in two drafts, with the first draft practically almost always being sent back with a litany of comments that would force us to think further on what we had written. I confess, however, that he once sent me back a first draft with the comment “Excellent paper! No need for a second draft. Good work—enjoy the weekend.” I have deleted 6,947 emails while at Ursinus, but that one has always stayed in my inbox.

“Dr. Doughty was an encyclopedia of information: he could always easily expand on any material discussed in the book purely from memory.”

His office was also highly reassuring to me because, no matter where one looked, there were always a clutter of books. When I saw this in my first week at this school, I knew I had made a good choice deciding to go to Ursinus.

It is my great honor to have many of those books today, as beyond the always interesting contents of the books themselves, there are also his comments constantly dotting the margins. One of my favorite examples: after one author’s argument, Dr. Doughty simply wrote “NO!”

I will greatly miss Professor Doughty’s wit, as well as his repository of information that would flow freely every class. Despite his passing, I know he will never truly be gone. People like Dr. Doughty really are immortal, though, thanks to their teaching and affecting –– NOT IMPACTING –– so many people for so long. I am going to Lehigh in the fall to pursue a Masters in Education and Social Studies, and I hope that through teaching I can pay tribute to Dr. Doughty’s memory. If I even come halfway close to his level of skill, I will be happy.