The first time I saw him on the Ateneo college campus I didn’t know his name. I noted his resemblance to Bob Hope and moved on to my next class. I later learned that he was Fr. Joseph Galdon, S.J. and that he was an English professor with cult-leader status among his students, notably the ladies.
When I became one of Fr. Galdon’s students in my sophomore year, I was struck by his ability to connect with his students and by his passion for the English language. He motivated me to work hard and rewarded me with the satisfaction that I had learned something of value.
Fr. Galdon expected me to really read – not just scan – a story or poem. He made sure his students appreciated more than content. We read for nuance, emotion and music. He made us see the deeper picture, not just the bigger picture, in every piece of fiction or poetry we studied with him.
In a similar fashion, Fr. Galdon demanded my best writing effort. I wrote, rewrote, and rewrote once more to clarify my message and provide it with a rich, appropriate context. I learned to collect my ideas and think them through so that I could commit them to paper with confidence.
I graduated in 1979 and I have the dubious pleasure of making my living as a writer. I don’t write fiction or poetry. I’ve not been published since I left Manila and emigrated to California in the early 1980s. Today I write press releases, create quotes and soundbytes for executives, edit magazine articles, and build a persona for the company I represent. The world of marketing copy seems so far away from the halls of Macbeth’s castle.
I do, however, still hold on to what I learned in Fr. Galdon’s classes. He was a defining influence in my development as a professional communicator. My reading skills now make me a quick study and my writing skills have put bread on my family’s table.
To put my writing, my work and my life in context, I recalled a passage from Macbeth that Fr. Galdon made us memorize:
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(Act V, Scene 5)
Fr. Joseph Galdon passed away on 15 March 2010. I’d not seen him since 1981 and I will always remember a vibrant, witty, engaging teacher. And, unlike the “poor player who…is heard no more,” Fr. Galdon will live on in his students and in me, through what I read and write.
Thank you, Fr. Galdon!