“I see something in you"

by Peter D. Kiernan '75

Professor Sheafe Satterthwaite called me out as I was galloping down the stairs at Lawrence early in my sophomore year, “Are you Kiernan?” “Yes,” I replied. “You wrote me an extraordinary paper.”

Proving my status as a sophomore, I replied, “Gee, I really didn't mean to.”

Ignoring my glib answer he pressed on. “You are destined to be a New York Times bestselling author. Your writing is the best I have seen in someone your age. Be at my office at 8:30 Wednesday… You don't strike me as someone with many morning classes.”

When I arrived at the appointment, Sheafe introduced me to Jonathan Aaron, the enigmatic head of the creative writing effort at Williams. 

As I sat in that meeting, a pretty indifferent student with an underwhelming record as proof, it occurred to me that Sheafe was the first adult other than my parents who actually believed in me. It was like a bolt out of the blue. Sheafe’s natural act, singling out a student, saying, “Ey you. I see something in you”.

In 100 ways the direction and focus of my life changed thanks to Sheafe and his intervention as I clip clopped down the stairs that day.

Decades later, when I finally got around to penning something, I dedicated the book to my family and "to Sheafe, who believed in me."

He was my second call after my wife when the unthinkable notice came from The New York Times with the news that my book was debuting at number four on their list.

True to form, Sheafe recalled every moment of the stairway salutation 30 years prior. And I stammered my thanks as he shared his own recollection of the moment.

You bet I cried...

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