Dr. Marchant was my student adviser at SUNY Brockport, and probably the teacher with whom I interacted with most frequently.
Though supportive of my writing, Peter always encouraged me to "get a real job" rather than rely on writing for my daily bread, advice which I've ignored more or less steadily for well over a decade.
This picture was taken on a visit to SUNY Brockport in 2005, where I'd gone specifically to find Dr. Marchant in order to tell him of my fabulous success as a writer. This was despite the fact that my first book had yet to be published and my writing success up the that point was limited to fifty or so magazine articles and half a dozen short stories in small literary magazines. This fit well into the pattern of our teacher-student relationship; I was forever popping into Peter's office to tell him of work in progress, hoping to get him excited enough about the work verbally that he'd fail to notice the absence of said work in actual written form.
He never fell for it. It was hard to fool Dr. Marchant about anything, no matter how friendly we became.
In the first semester of my Junior year he gave me an Incomplete in Advanced Composition, a course required for my major. Over the next two years he had me re-write the same short story numerous times, returning it after each attempt with a brief note reading "Good, but you are capable of better," or simply "Needs more cooking!" In the end - May of my final semester, to be precise - he finally passed me, returning the 20th or so draft of the story with "Excellent work! A+" written across the top. I'd finally passed Advanced Composition.
Following graduation, I began having this strange, re-occurring dream. In it, I'd be roaming the world ... in Taiwan or China or wherever I actually was at the time ... and my phone rings.
It's Peter Marchant, calling to to tell me he's had a change of heart about my final Advanced Composition Essay and has rescinded my A, retroactively rendering my college diploma null and void.
As he tells me this, my world crumbles. Work visas are cancelled, and I realize the police are after me for fraud. My inbox quickly fills with emails from editors demanding I return payment for stories long published. I wake in a cold sweat.
When I last visited Dr. Marchant in 2005 I told him of the dream. He laughed, delighted to have made such an indelible mark on my psyche. But - and this is key - at no point did he attempt to disabuse me of the notion that such a call might be forthcoming. For Peter, keeping a student constantly on their toes was his way of showing respect, and I will always appreciate him for it.
Although I have no reason to believe that Peter left in his will a stipulation stating my continued status as an A student of his would remain contingent on my continuing to do good work, I will nonetheless continue to act as if.
In Memory of Peter Marchant, 1928-2013