Student reflects on life of influential teacher

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Written by:
Demetrio Teniente

Sports Editor

dteniente@smu.edu

 

I’ve lost people before. Never anyone particularly close, though. I’ve grieved the losses of others. I’ve also grieved the loss of local celebrities. It wasn’t until last week that I came to know the pain of losing family.

Richard Dillon died Thursday in a losing battle with esophageal cancer.

Mr. Dillon was my high school AP Microeconomics teacher. I took his class as a senior and because I was almost “out” I admittedly put forth the minimal amount of effort early on.

I’d struggle to remain awake, but just when I was about to start dreaming, Mr. Dillon would crack a one-liner. It would always be subtle, clever and lighthearted. After a joke, he’d have us for the rest of class, but we would have his friendship forever.

He knew the subject he was teaching was only going to be interesting to a handful of the 17- and 18-year-old kids looking at him.

So, he peppered his lectures with interesting and funny stories from his personal life or he got on his soap box and entertained us with a colorful tangent.

The most important thing about what I just said: he knew.

He always knew who was putting forth the effort to get better. He knew who wasn’t completely blowing off his class. He may have been brash and seemed distant when you first met him, but that wasn’t Mr. Dillon at all. Once he knew you “gave a crap,” as he would say, he did everything he could to make sure you graduated.

After I graduated, he kept in touch with me through Facebook. Often he would write positive comments on my posts. He often told me how proud he was of all the things I had done and what I would do.

He would always tell me that he knew I was going places; that I was going to be someone. I knew how supportive he was, but probably only superficially.

It wasn’t until Thursday that I realized just how supportive he was. It’s also when I realized that I would no longer get to hear him call someone a “wise ass” or see his politically charged posts. Now, I’ll actually have to pay attention to politics to know what is going on.

Of all my high school teachers, Mr. Dillon supported me the most after graduation.

Sadly, he was the one I visited the least. I went back to my old stomping grounds several times, each time I saw the same group of teachers; the ones who supported me during high school.

As awesome as they were for supporting and teaching me in the classroom, Mr. Dillon did something more: he supported me and continued to teach me once I left.

He was one of the greatest men I have ever known. There isn’t enough space on this page to adequately represent who he was or what made him such a great person. He touched so many lives and he will be missed.

I regret not visiting him more. I regret not stopping by his class more than I did to tell him thanks, but I can’t beat myself up about it. He wouldn’t want that.

When I learned of his passing I was very sad and I still am, but he wouldn’t want that either. He’d tell me to go out, drink, have a good time and live my life to the fullest. He’d say that would be the best way to celebrate his life.

Thank you, Mr. Dillon, for being one of the best teachers I ever had.

Thank you, for believing in me.

But most of all, thank you, for being my friend.

Teniente is a junior majoring in journalism.

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