Rest in Peace, Professor Pauline Maier

Today, the world has bid farewell to one of its great historians.  Professor Maier has educated countless many through her books and lectures, inspiring many of us along the way.  I was one of those lucky ones.

During the fall of my junior year at MIT, I enrolled in a class called “Riots, Strikes, and Conspiracies in American History.”  That’s where I first met Pauline Maier.  Even before she spoke, I was in awe.  This was THE Pauline Maier, author of assigned readings from AP American History.  I was thrilled to be taking one of her classes.  Throughout the term, she pushed us–to become better historians, better writers.  I had never felt more passionate about a research project in my entire academic career.  At least, until I took another one of her classes.  This one, entitled “The American Revolution,” was truly a privilege to be taking from arguably the most respected early American scholar out there.  Every class meeting was enjoyable, and we seldom ended on time.  We spent the ninety minutes arguing matters of the Constitution, of the British Parliamentary supremacy, and matters of colonial taxation.  She never lectured, but painted scenes of the resistance movements, of the Revolutionary battles, and of the staunch patriotism that rippled throughout the colonies.  We each chose a research project for the term and, like she had before, pushed us to perform at our highest capacities.  And we loved her for it.  Rarely was anyone missing from the class.  Rarely did someone neglect the assigned readings.  Rarely were we not enthralled by her contributions to our discussions.

After class, I would walk a completely different route than usual just to enjoy her company for as long as possible.  We talked about everything imaginable–about school (of course), about future plans, about the horrific events of April, sometimes about boys, about her life, and about her gardening.  I truly adored her, and still aspire to be as devoted to and as passionate about my research as she was to and about hers.

After our last class of the semester, we received this in an email:

“You were a terrific class.  I am especially grateful for your very reasonable and constructive suggestions for revising the assigned readings; I plan to implement them all.  If you have any others, I will happily receive them.

Send your friends next year!  And have a good summer.

Pauline Maier”

And so, I argue that the world did not lose one of its greatest historians.  Through her teaching and ability to inspire those who are lucky enough to read and listen to her words, her legacy lives on while she rests in peace.


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