By Gail Faustyn
It was not common for Jason Meriwether, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs at IU Southeast, to ever receive anything lower than an A in writing courses during his academic career.
“I was a really great writer when I was in high school,” Meriwether said. “I think I had one of the best portfolios in my school and in my state, when I got to [University of] Louisville I really didn’t think there was anyone who could tell me I couldn’t write.”
However, once Meriwether enrolled in Assistant Professor of English Jeff Perry’s honors English course at UofL his skills were put to the test.
“He was the first college professor I had to really teach critical thinking,” Meriwether said. “It was the first time I really felt challenged as a writer.”
It was in Perry’s class that Meriwether received, what was then his first B and he was furious.
Fast forward 16 years and Meriwether, during his first semester as a vice chancellor at IU Southeast, was introducing himself to a group of new faculty members earlier this year. Suddenly, he realized one of the IU Southeast faculty members he was shaking hands with was Perry, his former UofL professor, the one who gave him a B.
It took both the men a minute to realize that they knew each other, but Meriwether said he was almost in shock when he realized who it was.
“You were the guy who gave me a B,” he said.
As a young student back at UofL, Meriwether had fumed about his first B. “I’m a good writer, and everyone knows I’m a good writer how did get a B?” Meriwether remembers thinking to himself.
With a fire in his belly he decided to talk to Perry about the B that he received and was really impressed by how Perry handled the situation.
“He took everything I had written in the class, and everything within my portfolio, and went over it with me,” Meriwether said. “He explained what I should be doing to write at a collegiate level and said ‘let’s look at how this could have been an A and what you can do to be successful for the rest of your college career.’”
Meriwether said he walked out of the meeting with a new found respect, and slowly began to realize how important the tools Professor Perry had given to him were.
“What Jeff did made me stop and say ‘wow I could be better’,” Meriwether said. “It took me about a week to really process what he said to me, I was still a little hot about the B, but what I learned from him really helped me the rest of my career.”
Now, Meriwether said, without the teaching and the time Perry spent with him, he would not be the writer that he is today.
Meriwether said that the type of interaction that he had with Perry should be what administrators and faculty should aspire to have with any student.
“He really, really changed me because he shared his knowledge,” Meriwether said.
With how heavily Perry influenced Meriwether, he was upset that he never actually got to thank him, until both of them started working IU Southeast.
Meriwether said he was so grateful that he was able to talk to Perry and tell him exactly how much he has helped him, even 16 years after the class.
While Meriwether was heavily influenced by this interaction, this was just the bonus of another day teaching for Perry.
“I just remember a smart and eager young student,” Perry said.
Meriwether said that the interaction he had with Perry should be the type of interactions that staff and faculty should strive to have with all of their students.
“He didn’t just change my writing, he influenced the way I do my job,” Meriwether said.