The Best E-Mail I Have Ever Received:
Received recently from a former student of mine, with identifying information deleted:
Professor Kerr,

I don't know if you remember me, but my name is []. I am a member of the Class of [] and was a student in your Criminal Procedure and Computer Crime classes.

I write this simply to say "Thank You." Your passion for the subjects you teach definitely came through, and it helped instill in me the desire to work in the field of criminal law. I recently received an opportunity to work as an ADA at the [] District Attorney's Office. After attempting a variety of other professions, it feels great to know that I finally found something I am truly passionate about, and I'm not sure that would have been possible without enjoying the subjects you taught. So while the generalization is that professors are unappreciated, please know there is at least one student who is grateful for your work.

All the best,
[Former Student]
For a professor, it just doesn't get any better than that.
Tim Nuccio (mail) (www):
Sure beats grade disputes, I'd imagine.
9.8.2009 6:44pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
Coooool. Treasure it, Orin - I'm sure such notes are few and far between.
9.8.2009 6:51pm
For what it's worth, I am not a former student, and I'm grateful for your work as well. That having been said, kudos to you for inspiring the former student.
9.8.2009 6:56pm
K. Dackson (mail):

Notes like this always make my wife's day (she's a foreign language teacher).

Savor it and remember it when the next grade-grubber comes along.
9.8.2009 7:03pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
9.8.2009 7:10pm
GainesvilleGuest (mail):
I have had several truly great professors I could write an email like that too. However, they are still a small minority of the professors I have had.
9.8.2009 7:20pm
What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.
~Karl Menninger

Orin - Sounds like whatever you teach, you will inspire. There's nothing more a student can ask for.
9.8.2009 7:23pm
I probably shouldn't, but...did he/she get an A for the course?

And yes, that is like having a patient expressing gratitude for what you try to do all the time.
9.8.2009 7:23pm
K. L. Marcus (mail):
9.8.2009 7:32pm
Ellen K (mail):
I have three students in SCAD, one at SVU and another at Art Center. My hope is to have one of them become famous and endow an art scholarship that would make any athletic scholarship pale in comparison....we can dream. Congratulations. The best teachers inspire their students to follow them.....
9.8.2009 7:36pm
Dave N (mail):
Very good.

Thanks for sharing.

[And frame the e-mail, just for the self-satisfaction of knowing you did your job well]
9.8.2009 7:39pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
The notes I've ever gotten of this sort are all curiously similar to my mother's handwriting.
9.8.2009 7:43pm
The Mojo Bison (mail) (www):
I must be doing something right, then, as I've started getting letters like this. The best one came from a student who took me twice and didn't earn especially high marks. (I can't be more specific, blasted FERPA and all that...) If you have a good time in class, the students will come around.

Mind you, one of my favorite taglines in the first few weeks of class is, "Oh sure, it's all laughs and smiles now, and then that first exam hits you and suddenly my ancestry is being called into question..."
9.8.2009 7:49pm
Did you remember him?
9.8.2009 7:59pm
Brandon Briscoe (mail):
I, too, took two of Professor Kerr's courses; and while it's not my calling to be an ADA, I otherwise wholeheartedly concur with the emailer's praise and gratitude. Both are well placed.
9.8.2009 8:00pm
I taught for three years before going to law school (secondary choral music), and while these sorts of appreciations are few and far between, they were the best parts of teaching for me.

I'm curious about something. Does a part of you wish it had been a physical, maybe even handwritten letter? Or did the fact that the student used an easier, less permanent form of communication not enter your mind at all? I'm honestly curious about this, whether people will feel slighted by a heartfelt email thank you.
9.8.2009 8:00pm :
Well, I met Orin at a wedding once, and he seemed like a really nice guy. That's the best I can do, I'm afraid. :)
9.8.2009 8:09pm
Crunchy Frog:
Sounds like this guy really does owe Orin a beer.
9.8.2009 8:18pm
Hungry Hippo:
These spambots just keep getting better. . . .
9.8.2009 8:39pm
MarkField (mail):

The notes I've ever gotten of this sort are all curiously similar to my mother's handwriting.

I'm quite confident I can find an expert who will swear it isn't.

I'm not sure if that'd make you feel better or worse.
9.8.2009 8:52pm
Once upon a time, I received a "thank you" card from a former client. He had purchased it at the prison commissary, and was serving two to four years. When he was first arrested, he was facing a minimum of fifteen to life. Weird facts led to a fairly good plea bargain.

(Getting thanked by a criminal client is a rare occurrence.)
9.8.2009 9:21pm
Eli Rabett (www):
and we just named our newborn daughter after you.
9.8.2009 9:47pm
Barrister's Handshake (mail) (www):
All my former students send me are emails about their new jobs in Nigeria and all they want from me is my bank account number so they can wire money to me. Go figure.
9.8.2009 10:04pm
Joe Zekas (mail) (www):
Neaerly 30 years after graduating from Wisconsin Law School it occurred to me to send Arlen Christenson a long-overdue thank you e-mail.

Professor Christenson had been my first-year Contracts professor, but beyond that he helped me win a school-year clerkship, a summer gig with the governor's office, and a part-time senior year job with the University. He also provided invaluable advice on career options. In a number of ways he had a profound positive impact on my life.

Christenson responded warmly to my e-mail, ducking the question of whether he remembered me, and inviting me to lunch the next time I was in Madison. I'd guess he'd given so generously of himself to so many students over the years that it was difficult to recall all of us.
9.8.2009 10:26pm
Cornellian (mail):
How does that compare with having one of your law review articles cited in a Supreme Court opinion?
9.8.2009 10:29pm
mikelivingston (mail) (www):
I get one of these each decade, too!
9.8.2009 10:45pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

I'm not sure if that'd make you feel better or worse.

Years of therapy have given me the insight to say, confidently, both.
9.8.2009 11:09pm
Redlands (mail):
It's a marvelous message, and from what I read here well deserved.
I wonder why more people don't express their gratitude for a job well done? I had a stabbing case about 25 years ago where a young man got a wound to the heart. He should have died but it happened across the street from a fire station. Slapped a compression suit on and got him to a hospital. No heart beat once there. The ER doctor had the courage to immediately open up his chest. With the pressure of the captured blood released from around the heart it started beating right away. In fact, he quickly regained consciousness. That must have been a scene.
I had the kid on the stand in the case and then the ER doctor. And what I remember most about the case is the doctor afterward saying to me, "You know, I saved that kid's life. I did. And I told him the next day he almost died. He just now passed me in the hallway leaving the courtrrom. Never has said 'thanks, doc,' nothing." All I could say was, "Well, I thank you."
Lesson learned.
9.8.2009 11:30pm
Randy R. (mail):

There are several teachers I should have written to saying something similar, but alas, they are retired or otherwise gone.
9.8.2009 11:36pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Redlands, maybe we need the ingrates in order to fully appreciate heartfelt gratitude.
9.8.2009 11:38pm
DiversityHire (mail):
With the square brackets in place, its already in nearly the exact format I need to add it to my comment-spam-bot. Just needs some percents and dollar signs.
9.9.2009 1:11am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Professors can certianly make a difference. I work for my patent law professor these days.
9.9.2009 1:56am
I can assure you, like Brandon mentioned above, that this student is not terribly unusual for you, Professor Kerr. Although I had an interest in criminal law before I took one of your classes, your excitement for the subject reassured me that I was on the right track.

Thanks, Professor.
9.9.2009 10:00am
DavidStras (mail):
Congrats, Orin. I agree that these types of notes and interactions with present and former students are what make teaching so rewarding. It is also quite rewarding to see your former students go into law teaching, do notable things in legal practice, and become quite successful in their chosen fields.
9.9.2009 1:55pm
David Hardy (mail) (www):
Oh, come on, it could get better. I mean, if there was a hundred dollar bill tucked in as a tip...

9.9.2009 11:47pm
ChrisTS (mail):
I keep all my 'you were wonderful' notes from former students - email, cards, letters, etc. When day to day teaching seems to be a grind, looking at those notes is the perfect medication.

Congratulations, Orin. I'm sure it was well-deserved.
9.10.2009 12:18am
"For a professor, it just doesn't get any better than that."
Oh yes it does: "You certainly taught me to spell 'baloney'."
9.10.2009 7:37am

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