Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

A teacher's teacher

You can learn from Dr. Macaulay

Dr. Hugh Macaulay died recently.

Anytime you get to feeling that flight instructors "don't get no respect" you should Google that name just to see how very respected a good teacher can be. He was one of the best teachers I ever met, and he was proof that, in the air or on the ground, a good teacher does make a difference--and is never forgotten.

Dr. Macaulay taught economics when I was at Clemson University more than 40 years ago. He held administrative positions at Clemson and the Treasury Department but, above all else, he is remembered as a teacher. I stayed in touch with him during all of those decades. I called him every time I had an economics question that confused me, just as I call my favorite CFIs when I need clarification on aviation questions.

Dr. Macaulay was not imposing in appearance--he looked like Orville Redenbacher, the popcorn king--but his smile, his attitude toward life and other people, his brain, and his constant quest for knowledge made him a giant of a man. His real legacy was generations of students throughout the world, just as a good CFI of long standing leaves a legacy of pilots flying all over the world.

I was not a stellar student (in economics or aviation) by anyone's measure, but Dr. Macaulay brought out the best in me, as does a great CFI. During the first course I ever took from him, he put a problem on the board and announced that anyone who could solve it earned an A for the course. I worked on that problem, took it home for the Christmas holidays, and discussed it with friends, all to no avail. I simply couldn't find the solution. After the holidays I headed straight for Dr. Macaulay's office. "I give up," I told him. "What is the answer?"

Dr. Macaulay looked at me almost sadly and said, "Nobody knows." I was upset. "Why," I asked, "did you let me work on that so hard if nobody knows the answer?" He looked me straight in the eye and said, "I thought maybe you would be the person who figured it out." Folks, you can really love a teacher like that, whether that person teaches supply and demand or airspace!

Shortly after graduating from Clemson, while I was working in sales with Procter & Gamble, I ran into Dr. Macaulay. Before I could greet him, he asked in his excited, enthusiastic way, "What should we be teaching people to help them work for a company like Procter & Gamble?" Likewise, I have seen CFIs eagerly seeking info from former students.

Like the best CFIs, Macaulay never quit learning, never quit asking, and never quit teaching. As a teacher you are one of life's important people to your students. Today's student will quote you forever. And never forget that, compared to you, Dr. Macaulay was limited. He didn't teach people how to survive and stay alive. You do.

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying since 1971 and has more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating. Visit his Web site.

By Ralph Hood

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