His letter was handwritten. It was clear. It was written neatly and straight across the page with no lines for guidance, a delight to see. Best of all, he’d written a two-page letter. After a few comments about trying to remember details about a certain classroom more than fifty years ago, he wrote, I recall that all of my classes had an opportunity to search for a hidden talent in creative writing. What a gold mine resulted from this “challenge with self.” In your case I detected early that you leaned toward poetic lines which prompted me to submit some of your work to be considered for publication in the Beta Club Journal.
He went on to say that the executive editor of the Journal returned each piece of submitted work with suggestions for consideration---and you were delighted in whatever criticism she offered.
That remark is true. I recall that when I read comments or criticisms, I was thrilled because I realized I had a chance to improve my writing and also that someone—some living soul somewhere—actually had read and reacted to what I wrote. That in itself was exciting.
Mr. Fowler is in his 90s. He was a champion tennis player who continued to win tournaments on the senior circuit during his 80s. Now, as I read Mr. Fowler’s letter again, I am pleased to know he still is teaching because he tells me he is proofing some autobiographical manuscripts written by some friends, One is a retired psychologist; the other, a concert pianist. One will be published this year. He also wrote he was delighted when a longtime tennis coach at Furman U. contacted him, and asked to spend the day. He wanted to take in all of the steps involved—lunch at the quaint café, pose for photos in the same booth, sample the Fowler-Carmichael soup, etc.
When I entered high school, I had Miss Nancy Owens as my 9th grade English teacher. She was tough, but the mantra throughout the halls was, “Wait until you get Mr. Fowler!” My brothers who went through his classes two years ahead of me also warned me.
Students entered his classes with trepidation and respect. There would be no fooling around in his class! No sir! Even another student, Ben Bernanke, now Chairman of the Federal Reserve, will attest to that. He too sat in the Dillon High School English class Mr. Fowler so aptly taught.
Most of my former teachers from that era are no longer living, but what a pleasure it was to have made contact with Mr. Fowler—(I can’t bring myself to address him as John)—and thank him for his encouragement, discipline, love of literature, and the written word. He was and still is an exceptional teacher.