Shortly after ending my challenging year as editor of “The Daily Mississippian,” graduating from Ole Miss and moving to New York City in the summer of 1963 to work for the “World-Telegram and Sun,” my mother forwarded a letter from Dr. Jere Hoar. He started that letter with “The aspirin bottle and I have missed you around here.” I can’t imagine why he would write that.
Admittedly, Dr. Hoar was my favorite, but most difficult, professor. I used to refer to him as “my old journalism professor” because he had a Ph.D. and gray hair. Years later I learned that Jere Hoar was about the same age as my husband.
One couldn’t help but learn a lot from Dr. Hoar; you were scared not to remember his lectures. However, he insisted that neither Curtis Wilkie nor I could take one of his early morning classes; I was, and still am, not a morning person. Curtis had another excuse!
Thankfully, over the years Dr. Hoar and I have kept in touch and remained friends. Of course, I usually have to suffer through some of his stories about me. For example, he embellishes the time I was so thrilled about passing one of his graduate courses, I rushed to give him a hug when I saw the grade. Instead, with a loud noise I clomped into the waste bucket next to his desk, almost falling over.
After suffering some health issues to which he would rarely admit, I would sometimes get emails from the late Dr. Ron Borne, a mutual friend, suggesting I might want to give Jere a call. Jere Hoar was then and is always up beat. I find calling in the evening when we can talk as we both sip our Bourbon works out just fine.
Another connection was with my cousin Dr. Gerald Hopkins, who not only served as the Rebels’ football physician for decades but also cared for professors, generations of students and their families. I always thought the two Jeres/Gerres were not just patient/doctor but hunting buddies. When I questioned this, Jere Hoar explained: Hunting is when guys get out their best guns, camouflage outerwear and take off for some serious shooting. Huntin’ is when the guys get out their guns, their booze and sit around talking about the big ones that got away. Jere Hoar claims they never hunted together so I have a feeling these two of my favorite men were the huntin’ kind.
In doing some “spring cleaning” I came across that long-ago letter written by Jere Hoar almost 54 years ago. I treasured his words then as I do now:
“I didn’t get to bid you a proper goodbye or subject you to one last lecture.
“Much abbreviated, it is this: Of all the qualities of man, mature judgment and courage are two which eventually prevail, or should.
“You possess them both.
“Neither the ‘test’ of New York nor any other is likely to be too great for you to meet.”
Thank you, my “old journalism professor.” I’ve tried to live up to that lecture.
Sidna Brower Mitchell was graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1963 and named to the Ole Miss Hall of Fame. She was editor of The Daily Mississippian when James Meredith integrated the university, receiving a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her editorials and a number of other honors and job offers.
The Memphis native worked for the World-Telegram and Sun in New York City and UPI in London. She held other media and public relations jobs as well as being a part owner of weekly newspapers in Morris County, NJ, for 25 years. She has continued to write a weekly cooking column since 1975. Sidna retired as deputy director of the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a controversial state agency.
Still holding offices in several organizations, Sidna has taken up serious croquet in retirement and has participated in tournaments in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.
While she has never returned to the South to live, Sidna’s heart and cooking still have that Southern touch.
She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.