Jason Roberts: Sierra College English Professor Recalls Kay Glowes, His Sierra College English Professor

July 1, 2016

I’ve been a full-time faculty member in English at Sierra since 2007, and I started work as a part-time faculty member in 2001. But prior to that, I was a student from 1990-1992. 

I graduated from Colfax High School in 1990 without much enthusiasm for school and very little encouragement to attend college. I enjoyed playing my guitar and performing in rock bands (something I still do today, by the way), but academics I felt were not my thing. Still, I came to Sierra College hoping to be inspired. I floundered through classes and generally earned poor grades. However, during my second year I enrolled in English 1B. At this point I didn’t see much of a future for myself unless I could play the scales on my guitar much faster and become a famous rock guitarist. This is what I was thinking when Professor Kay Glowes’ class began. 

Professor Kay Glowes

I remember how nice and encouraging she was, but I also remember the huge literature anthology we purchased for the class—and how dull I found the reading. Then one day, Professor Glowes assigned a story called “Greasy Lake” by T.C. Boyle, and for the first time I was enthralled. Boyle’s characters were like me and the people I hung out with: lost, bored, making questionable decisions. So I wrote a paper about this. When Professor Glowes returned it, she wrote, “I think you would make a wonderful English major.” I had never considered this before and her encouragement stunned me. Me? An English major? I took that little compliment and carried it with me to a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in English.

When I finished graduate school, Bill Tsuji hired me for the part-time faculty pool at Sierra College, a destination I sought intentionally. During the first English department meeting, I saw Professor Glowes and I told her about her inspirational message. I recall that she was pleased. 

She passed away from cancer shortly after I saw her. 

That one comment inspired me, and it continues to today. I remember every day I’m in the classroom to encourage my students no matter their academic situation. Every student arrives in the classroom with a different story, and as I seek to understand their story, I remember Professor Glowes, and I remember to pull each student into this academic community with words of encouragement. Professor Glowes taught me about the need for that community, the need for kindness in a challenging and rigorous environment. She exemplified the Sierra College community, which is why I wanted to be a part of it.