How Cliff Schimmels changed my life. I think.

It’s not just Nurses Week. It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, too. So here’s an appreciation I wrote a few years ago. It’s still true. It’s still a challenge.


wheatonSometimes one conversation changes the course of your life for good. You are heading one direction and someone pours counsel and direction and affirmation into you. Suddenly, you are heading another direction. That happened to me sometime during the spring of 1980. I say “sometime” because I can’t remember the conversation.

I graduated from college in November 1979, a few months ahead of my class. I worked full-time in data processing. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life. By summer 1980, I was heading toward a college teaching career. During the summer I took history and philosophy of education, did an independent study in teaching higher education, and was accepted into a masters degree program for the fall.

But I don’t remember how it happened.

My sister thinks it was Cliff Schimmels. “He did that for a lot of people,” she said recently. I think she’s right. Since my summer courses were all with Cliff.

Cliff was unconventional. Cliff was an education prof at Wheaton College. He had taught history and Latin and coached high school football, then earned his PhD and taught education. He started writing and spent 6 weeks going back to high school as a student. When he preached or spoke in chapel, he gave one point sermons. As you were waiting for the second point, he walked to his chair. And you replayed his words over and over.

Our lives intersected at church. He taught the college-age Sunday school class at the church I was attending. I loved his teaching. I must have spent some time some day talking with him about my studies, my interests, my life.

I think that we work too hard to make our conversations memorable. Maybe we should work harder to help people be different.

So, who turned your life?

An obituary
Cliff’s teaching tips