Roy as teacher

Contributed By Elena Razlogova

Text

When Roy took me on as a Ph.D. student in 1998, I've been through three American universities and several advisers. I was alone in the US--my entire family was back in Russia. I was also broke and ready to give up. If it wasn't for Roy I would probably be working in a bank in Moscow right now. Instead I teach history at a university in Montreal. I owe both my career as a historian and my urban bohemian lifestyle to Roy.

Roy approached my education, as he did many things, as a collaborative project, and all of a sudden instead of no advisers, I had two great ones, Roy and Mike O'Malley. And he gave me a job at CHNM so I could earn enough money to survive in the US. Roy was a perfect adviser--he was always there when I needed help yet did not demand any adoration or flattery in return. In fact, he found any expression of gratitude annoying. I still have Roy’s comments on all of my chapters--he wrote pages of detailed suggestions for revision, complete with spelling and grammar corrections (particularly relevant in my case). I could always count on him to write a letter for me or to help with a grant, no matter how exasperated he was with a last-minute request. When I applied to the university where I'm teaching now, the committee unexpectedly requested a second long letter from Roy, to be emailed the same day, dealing specifically with my work in digital history. I went to his office, and he wrote it right then, in ten minutes, even though he was extremely busy. I wouldn't have gotten that job if he didn't take time to write that letter. Roy didn't just teach historiography and method--from him I learned why history only makes sense as a democratic project, by talking to him, reading his books and comments, working with him at the Center, and listening to his stories about his many friends who did history elsewhere.

As others have pointed out here, Roy was generous to all of his students and junior colleagues. Many times, Roy would mention a manuscript he had read for a former student, or an outline for a book he had commented on for a former colleague, or a letter he had written for someone. When in 2007 Roy received a Distinguished Service Award from the OAH, the program included a short film by a high school student. The very first thing Roy did after the ceremony ended was to turn to the student and talk to her at length about her project. In one of his last published articles he made sure to emphasize the importance of a dissertation in progress by one of his students.

I know what he did for me he would have done for anyone, but I needed it more. I miss him every day.