Trent University lost a unique and inspirational professor on Sunday, January 15, 2012. For those who had the privilege to be taught by Lorne, whether it was through conversation or as a student, it is clear that the world lost an incredible individual.
To encompass all of what Lorne gave the students of Trent University in just a few hundred words would be impossible. But as a recent student of his I will try to describe his passion for education and for the learning experience of his students in this small space.
Lorne’s classroom was unlike any other; chairs and couches were arranged in a circle, name cards were distributed, and student-to-student sharing was just as important as any words that Lorne lectured. To call his classes “lectures” would be incorrect. He acted more as a facilitator than a lecturer, prompting and inspiring students to reach their own conclusions about how they could exist in this world as proactive and conscious individuals.
The class that I took with Lorne was a cross-listed Business Administration and Indigenous Studies course called “The Meaning of Work in the Contemporary World.” But Lorne once told me that he had wanted to call it “Conversations that Matter,” which is also the title of his book. That is what his class was—three hours of immensely important conversations of which the students were the topic. Lorne taught self-reflection in which no answer was wrong, and to know oneself was the ultimate goal. It was not easy. Lorne demanded attention and toil in this search for the self and it was clear when someone was not fully engaged in the process.
Once a few weeks of class progressed we started to feel like a family. It became a sacred space with a special group and I experienced the highest amount of respect I have ever felt in a room filled with strangers. Lorne taught us to listen, to share, and to look deep within ourselves. The type of learning experienced was transformational. My fellow students and I recognized how different this learning was from the typical classroom experience in a university setting. Many of us expressed that this course, or a course taught in this style, should be required in every curriculum.
When I heard the news of Lorne’s passing I found it so hard to believe. Individuals such as he, who live so fully and are so influential, seem immortal. The incredible thing about his teaching is that he showed you how to teach yourself. Through being a student of Lorne’s I learned how to recognize my environment as either one of growth or as one I need to change.
I know I will forever be indebted to Lorne as a teacher. He lived and breathed education, and that passion was so deeply felt in his classroom. He as a teacher and his classroom as a transformational learning environment are models to be emulated throughout universities everywhere.
In my last class with him in my final year at Trent, one of the last times I saw him, the whole class participated in a ceremony of saying goodbye. It was a goodbye circle in which everyone went around to all of their classmates both giving and receiving goodbyes. Lorne began the ceremony and said that we could say goodbye in whatever form we wished; he chose to give hugs. The rest of us imitated him and by the end my face hurt from smiling so hard at what was such a meaningful moment.
Lorne made this goodbye significant, and I felt important and full of worth. In the short time that I knew him Lorne Ellingson was attentive, pensive, and generous with his time and wisdom. He will be dearly missed, but his teachings will live on in the thousands of individuals he touched throughout his life. I know I join in with many other students in saying thank you, Lorne.