Bennett Cites Influence
of a Great Teacher, Dean Percy Burns
Samford graduate J. Claude Bennett '54 encouraged
seniors to place a high priority on education by being "lifelong
learners," citing the influence the late Dean Percy Burns
had on him during undergraduate days.
Bennett sought Burns' advice on attending Harvard Medical School,
where he had been accepted, after his graduation from Samford.
"He said to me, 'there's something about doctoring that
not everybody perceives. It is a long and arduous educational
path, but it does imbue one with compassion, reason and most
of all, a lasting respect for the gift of life.'
"He suggested that helping people becomes the true goal."
Bennett told the graduates he still remembered something Burns
said in an introductory lecture on Shakespeare.
He quoted Burns' description of Shakespeare: "He was an
uneducated man from a small village who became not only the greatest
playwright of his time, but of all time. He, more than anyone
else, gave the English language its dominant place in world history."
Bennett added, "Isn't it extraordinary how truly great teachers
in very ordinary situations can say things that you remember
for years afterward?"
The speaker also urged the 304 graduates to "be open to
new directions." Bennett's own career illustrates that point.
He has been a basic scientist, teacher of clinical medicine,
university administrator (as president of the University of Alabama
at Birmingham) and now, head of a for-profit corporation, BioCryst