I am currently cleaning out the inbox of an email account I've had since I was in high school (we're talking circa 2001-2002; yes, I'm that old, lol). I've gone through emails from 2003 through 2009, the last only two weeks after my father's death. The email I opened was of one of my favorite professors I ever had. The email was a response to my letting him know that I was going to take him for an online course (which was still customary at West Los Angeles College in 2009).
He replied: "Wow, I knew that I knew your name!!!!!!!!!!!! This is an entirely online class so we won't see each other, or you won't have to put up with my jokes!!!!!! Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about this course as we take it online!!!! See you online soon.
He was my professor for two English courses during my freshman year of college at Santa Monica College (in 2004-2005) and, years later (Fall 2009), I took him for an Interpersonal Communications course at West Los Angeles College. I took easy "filler"/elective courses at community college during the 2009-2010 school year because my father had died only a month prior to the start of the Fall semester and I didn't want to start my (now) alma mater and possibly waste $40k (that was the tuition and fees cost per year when I was an undergrad) not knowing if I would have the mental and emotional capacity to get through the entire school year since my father's death had just happened. Thankfully, I was able to make it through the entire school year (arguably my favorite of my entire academic career because of the courses I took) in one piece and with my highest GPA ever.
When I was signing up for courses, I saw that Mr. Habel was teaching a speech course at WLAC. I'd loved his English classes so it was a no-brainer to take it. Even though the English classes started at 6:30 a.m. (yes, you read that correctly), Mr. Habel was always so kind to us (there were maybe 10 of us total) and he was one of the most encouraging and optimistic professors I've been blessed to have. His class wasn't hard nor was the material tedious; he chose the right material to challenge us without making it seem like it was a challenge. He truly cared that we all succeeded and never in a condescending way.
Opening up that email brought back all those lovely memories of his courses and what a great professor he was. I decided to look him up -- to see if he was still teaching -- when I encountered news I wasn't expecting: Mr. Lowell Habel had passed away on May 27, 2015, only 3 days before my 30th birthday. I teared up. In fact, I'm still tearing up as I type this out. It's been almost 2 years since his passing but the news is fresh to me.
I'm going to take this opportunity to not only say what a great human being he was but also to remind everyone how little acts can change and inspire us for the best. Mr. Habel cared deeply for his students. I saw it in the three semesters I was his student. He was kind, funny (oh, those jokes...), and he tried to help us with things that were even outside of the material/course he was teaching. 12+ years after I took my first course with him, his optimism and encouragement still resonate with me. I wonder if he knew how many students he helped. Most of us begin college worried about doing well and he was the professor who helped make that transition easier for me. In fact, he made me feel like I was competent enough to not only do well and succeed in college but beyond, whatever career path I would choose.
I'm about to pray the Rosary and the chaplet of Divine Mercy (it's the 3 o'clock hour, as I type this, in L.A.). I will remember him in my prayers and will also make sure that I try to honor his memory by being encouraging to others like he had been to all of us.
Rest in peace, Mr. Habel... and thank you for everything.