It’s been a few months since this happened but after finding some old emails, I felt compelled to write about one of my favorite teachers I had at the University of Maryland. Her name was Dr. Lee Thornton. She taught my Broadcast Journalism class my senior year in 1997. That was my major. This class – Journalism 361 – was one of my most memorable classes for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of her.
When she died, I learned from her obituary written by my colleagues at The Post that she “in 1977 became the first black woman to cover the White House regularly for CBS.” I didn’t know that. Nor did that matter as to why I, or subsequent students, would remember her.
She was one of four professors I kept in touch with after college (three of whom I ended up working with at washingtonpost.com). With Dr. Thornton, it was personal.
Her class was great. Her teaching style was great. But it went beyond that. We shared interest in movies, screenwriting, and even investing in the stock market (before the bubble burst in 2000). She, like myself, tried hard to get our fiction work published. About ten years ago, she asked for my help in researching the story of Marie Thérèse dite Coincoin for a screenplay, after Edward P. Jones wrote “A Known World” and won the Pulitzer without doing a ‘stitch of research’ – something that I believe annoyed her.
After she died, I read through some of my old correspondence with her. She once told me – several years after I graduated – “Believe it or not, I’ve thought of you often. You ARE among my faves!”
After watching tributes that students gave her after she retired, I wasn’t surprised to learn she had lots of ‘faves.’
I was one of her ‘faves’ only because she brought out the best in people, and she did that with me.
Rest in peace, Dr. Thornton.