Two weeks ago a former student came to see me, Michelle Redmond, whom I taught at Notre Dame College in the mid-70’s. Michelle was a communications major so I had her for several courses: creative writing, journalism, film study, and literature. She was a fine student, an articulate and attractive Black woman. “Doors will open for her,” one of her other teachers said to me. And they did open. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the world of journalism was looking for women—especially women of color. “Yes, the doors opened for me,” Michelle told me years later. “But I was successful in the world of journalism because I could write!”
Michelle became a news anchor in Dallas for the ABC affiliate there. Later she began writing and producing shows for the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, the Travel Channel, The Learning Channel, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. She then did a stint for the National Geographic Channel traveling all over the world.
Three years ago she made a crucial decision: she decided to go back to college and get her masters. “I wanted to teach,” she said. “I wanted to share the skills I had learned over the years with young people just starting out.” Michelle received a full-scholarship from Southern Methodist University and is now completing her MFA in cinema-television.
In fact, that’s what brought her back to Cleveland two weeks ago. She was here to interview someone for a documentary she’s doing on “bebop.” Michelle’s grandfather is the famous Teddy Hill, one of the “inventors” of bebop at Minton’s Playhouse, a seminal jazz club in Harlem. Michelle showed me a picture of herself with him taken many years ago. There she is, a little girl with bright eyes, gazing up in awe at this wonderful grandfather who came from New York City to Cleveland every summer to visit her family.
Michelle is married. She and her husband, Allen, will soon celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Allen is a professional voice-over artist with an impressive resume. For example, he did the narration for the final segment of The Planet Earth series. And of course, he is the narrator for several of Michelle’s productions too.
In the fall, Michelle will begin teaching full-time at the University of North Texas in the Mayborn School of Journalism. As we sat and talked for several hours, I saw in Michelle the same enthusiasm for life that she had when she was a student in my classroom. My wish for her is this: in her teaching career may she have the privilege to teach the same kind of student she was for me: enthusiastic, creative, hardworking, fun, and good!