Metropolitan Community College and the Northland community lost a great historian and instructor – a fixture of MCC-Maple Woods for 42 years and MCC for nearly half a decade, John Stockmyer passed recently from complications stemming from heart surgery.
A memorial service will be held to pay tribute to John’s many contributions to MCC from 10 a.m. – noon April 30 in the Maple Woods Campus Center. If you would like to share a memory, please do so. Cards and condolences will be delivered to John’s wife and fellow MCC employee, Connie, after the event.
MCC-Maple Woods instructor Bob Williams, who had the distinction of being both student and colleague to Stockmyer, remembered him as a tough but extremely thorough and talented instructor.
Forty five years ago (on the first day of my college career)(September 10, 1969) I walked into a classroom and saw the man who would change my life. He was my history professor. He looked young. He looked friendly. He looked easy. I was happy! And . . . I was somewhat correct. He was young and he was friendly, but he certainly wasn’t easy!! That semester I worked harder, and learned more history than I had ever imagined I could. There were hundreds of terms to recall and dozens of large essays to write. Every class was a wild, non-stop, note taking extravaganza.
John Stockmyer was anything but easy. He was brutal! But, it was ok, because John Stockmyer was also “magic.” When he lectured, he told a story; a wonderful, funny, exciting, and in all ways, amazing story. Snatching up the dusty names I had vaguely heard of (and many more I had never known), he fit them into a marvelous tale, a magical spell, that possessed me and many others, not just to learn history, but to love it!
I graduated from Maple Woods and transferred to the University of Missouri intent on majoring in history. Several of my friends who had been attending M.U. warned me that although I had done well at Maple Woods Community College, I shouldn’t expect to be with the students who had been at the university all along. And they were right. I wasn’t with the university students, I was ahead of them—-way ahead. I had studied under John Stockmyer!
John taught at Metropolitan Community College (nearly all of it as Maple Woods) for 50 years. Every day (as in every day) John was at school by 7 a.m – an hour early for his 8 o’clock class but just in time to make sure he had everything set up; his theme music tailored to each lecture; his slides, his personal collection of artifacts; his film clips, and of course his lectures, which (if possible) somehow got more magical each semester. He won the first ever KRCHE award for teaching excellence in the Kansas City area. It was a fitting recognition, but John deserved a larger kingdom. The renown educator Dr. Dan Kahler summed it up in stating, “John Stockmyer is arguably (but not very) the best professor in America.”
The gifts John gave us extended far beyond academics. He taught us history, but more importantly, he showed us the path to being a good person. John was genuine, sincere, honest, and unselfish. He was devoted to his work and to helping others. If anyone needed something, John was there. He was totally non-political. He did what he did, not for appearance or for gain, but simply because he thought it was right.
John believed in people. He loved his family (wife Connie, sons John L.and Mark, and daughter in law Kris) and his friends, but he thought well of everyone. He put up a rather artistic change box in the college cafeteria. It was stocked with his own money in case students, staff or faculty got to school, wanted to eat and were short of funds. He said it would benefit everyone and he was convinced people would quickly replace the change they had borrowed. In 30 minutes, all the change disappeared, and so too did the box! A few years later John bought a dozen umbrellas, placing them in a basket on a rainy day for anyone to use, with the firm conviction the umbrellas would be brought back on the morrow. All were taken and none returned. Well, actually one was returned – it was broken!
We all laughed at John’s experiments in human nature and his ill founded hopes for them. But, beyond the joking, we respected him and his ideals. We admired his belief in goodness as we admired his dedication to achieving it. John was greatness in teaching, but more than that, he was greatness in life.
John Stockmyer changed my life, and the lives of hundreds if not thousands of other students. John taught us, advised us, and supported us. He provided a model of excellence and he convinced us that, regardless of our past or our background, we could achieve it. When we were discouraged, or when we failed, he stood by us. If John Stockmyer had faith in us, how could anything else matter? Because he had confidence in us, we did too. Because he believed in us, we became much more than we would otherwise have been. Our great teacher was also our great friend. And so . . . we love him.
John complemented his teaching with writing. He authored non-fiction books on creativity, human development and relationships. He also produced many works of fiction: The “Z” series detailing the escapades of a unique and unorthodox detective; and “Under the Stairs,” a fascinating set of fantasy novels.
Some of these books are available online as audio recordings. I downloaded one recently so that I could once again hear his voice. I hope I will always hear it. The world would be a better place if we all did.
Here was a Caesar, when comes such another?