I was fortunate enough to take the Winter Term course Love, Friendship and Imagination in January 2014 with Dr. Elie Wiesel. That month was one of the most memorable and meaningful in my life. I still remember the excitement of the first day of class and how students would arrive more than an hour early each day in preparation. When Dr. Wiesel spoke for the first time, the entire class was silent and leaned in to listen with a special type of awe I’d never experienced when anyone else spoke. Despite this, Dr. Wiesel spent most of each class listening to each of us with the same type of empathetic listening and special concentration. Our class was made up of a wide variety of students from different academic backgrounds and cultures. Each of us shared our own ideas about and analysis of different texts, which Dr. Wiesel would listen to as if he were learning as much from us as we learned from him. As he had told us, he continued to teach because he learned every day from his students. Dr. Wiesel taught me one should never stop being a student no matter how experienced you are in a field or whom you are with.
The most meaningful aspect of taking a course with Dr. Wiesel was how it allowed me to reflect on his experiences and philosophies while applying them to my own life. I still have my notebook from the class filled with quotes by him about love, memories, time, friendship and hope; from time to time I look at the notebook to remind myself of his often simple but philosophical ideas about not taking anything for granted and making the best out of our finite time. Taking a class with Dr. Wiesel as a junior who just got back from a semester abroad and was quickly moving to a post-graduate life allowed me to reflect on where I’d been and where I wanted to go, while remembering what was most important in life. For the entire month, I could just focus on the texts and themes of the course, having conversations with my friend who took the course with me long after class ended and then journaling into the night. Part of me wishes I could stop time and go back to that small classroom every year, so I can continue to reflect on these themes and gain new insights on how they are present in my own life.
On our first day of class, Dr. Wiesel told us that “life is not made of minutes or hours, but of moments.” The moments with Dr. Wiesel—whether laughing with him about the cold during a coffee break or hearing about his own experiences of love, loss and friendship—are such moments that I will keep with me. Although I may not be able to sit down with him today, I can still flip through my old notebook and remember our conversations to bring a special type of introspection to my life that reminds me to be thankful and make each day meaningful. Thank you, Dr. Wiesel, for the influence you have had on all your students and the way you have touched our lives, including my own.
—Andreas Stocker ’15