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Students Remember Mr Panter

"Mr. Panter's English classes stand out the most in my mind from my three years at St. Pat's. His style of teaching and his genuine concern for our ability to soak up the knowledge he offered carried me all through high and to this day.

His special ways of getting through to us worked: we painted the girl's bathroom for extra credit; listened to the World Series on the radio; and, brought in rock 'n' roll records to analyze the lyrics. He taught the boys' and girls' PE classes (where I learned all about football) and coached the basketball teams, while Kay washed the uniforms at home.

What wonderful people! How can I thank a whole family for sending me off to high school and, indeed life – a better person than when I arrived?

I send all my love to the Panter family: Kay, Jessica, Sian, Mary and Josh. Thank you for sharing your husband and father with us!"

- Karen Tomolonius Clayton
Class of 1970



Duck at Pond "The words I remember the most: 'How could all this just happen?'

(gesturing out the window explaining the reason for his faith)"
- Mark Bahoric
Class of 1970

"Mr. Panter was a Renaissance man: teacher, coach, mentor, friend. He was strong, caring man who taught us all some great life lessons on and off the basketball court. He was about the kids. He was tuned in.


Once we were walking along the St. Pat's concourse discussing nominees for captain that year. He said, 'Several of the players think that you should be captain.' I was silent. He chuckled, then said, 'and you think that would be a good choice too, don't you?' I smiled. We both laughed out loud. One memory out of so many. He was a good man."

- Donnie Matheson
Class of 1967



"We had an assignment, not sure what it was, but I know what I turned in to Mr. Panter. It was a single sheet of paper on which I had pasted fragments of pictures cut out of Look and Life magazines. The title, also a cut out, was "The Great Costume Put On", which was taken from an article about new fashion trends, I believe.

I pasted an image of the torso and upper legs of a man wearing avant-garde apparel, but replaced his actual head with an image of George Wallace's head that fit nicely with the positioning of the rest of the body.

Wallace was the former governor of Alabama who had won the election with the promise,

'Segregation now!
Segregation tomorrow!
Segregation forever!'

During our time at St. Patrick's, he ran his first campaign for President.
Wallace Head I think what I was trying to communicate with my simple montage was my sense that Wallace, to win the favor of non-Southern voters, was presenting a façade of egalitarianism.

It 'was all just a put on', I guess was the point I was attempting to make.


Well, Mr Panter must have liked the costume metaphor, because the assignment was returned to me with this comment, "This is a Gem!" Wow, that meant so much, because I felt he didn't dispense praise lightly. Even more incredible was his request some time later for my permission to let him bring the assignment to a professional meeting to share with colleagues. He came to my house to pick it up!

Having a person of such high standards and expectations believe what I had done was exceptional imbued me with a sense of confidence at an age when there is tremendous uncertainty about who we are and what we can accomplish (at least that was the case for me). This experience, I truly feel, has had an enduring impact on me throughout my life.

It certainly has influenced my mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students over the years, as well as, no doubt, my parenting of our daughter, Emma.


So, thank you Mr. Panter! Your legacy of excellence, decency, generosity and inspiration will endure in the lives of those of us who were fortunate enough to have you as a teacher. We will do our best to continue the transmission of these values to those whom we have the opportunity to influence during our time."

- Dan Lassiter
Class of 1970



"When I walked into Mr. Panter's 7th grade class in 1967, I was kind of a bitter young man with few male figures in my life. What I learned from his patient guidance, beyond everything I needed to know about literature, grammar, writing, poetry and basketball to take me through graduate school and my first editing job, was how to be a stronger, quieter man; how to get the most out of life's gifts and hardships. I knew, every time Mr. Panter called out, 'Arthur' in his deliberate, measured tone, and laid his amazingly powerful hand on my shoulder, that he was going to teach me something vitally important. I did my best to listen.


When I returned to Fayetteville many years later for a visit and was having dinner at his wonderful restaurant, he recognized me immediately, coming over to chat (in his apron, of course) as if we'd never parted company for more than a week or two. Upon learning that I'd taken a commission in the Navy, he stood just a little taller and I could see the pride in his gaze. I thanked him for teaching me how to read critically, how to construct a good sentence, and how to lead people with a few well-chosen words. He congratulated me on my Naval career, but hoped I'd return to writing someday... and that we'd enjoy our meal.

Arthur Mayfield

Reader's Digest used to offer a segment called "My Most Unforgettable Character". My guess is, among those who ever knew him, John C. Panter is everyone's most unforgettable, most indomitable character.


Fair winds and following seas... I did finally return to writing, Mr. Panter. Hope you would have liked my work."
-Arthur Mayfield
Class of 1970



One time Mr. Panter gave us an English assignment vague enough to provoke us into some critical thinking and out of our comfort zone.

Mary Jo Lorek, one of our most exemplary, scholarly, though quite demure at the time, students went to the front of the room to present her work. It soon became clear that this was a study in silence.

Chalkboard Her back to the audience & facing the board, she took chalk in hand and scribbled furiously on the chalkboard in a script so illegible as to make M.D.'s handwriting proud. Then, taking her sleeved arm, she disregards the delicacy of her sweater, and sloppily erased part of her writing, and scribbled some more. HOLY COW! She was doing an imitation of Mr. Panter.


Things got very tense in there amongst the awkward silence, the stifle of a chuckle or two, and the dread of impending hellfire & brimstone that would surely follow. Who could have predicted that sweet Mary Jo would be the catalyst of mass destruction, when she slowly turned to face her captive audience, shaking an accusatory finger at us and slowly, silently mouthed the words, "Shut Your Mouth!" (a favorite go-to expression of an exasperated Mr. P). I turned as discreetly as self-preservation would allow to observe how this presentation delivered by a mime with Tourette's was going down with Mr. P.

To my surprise, relief and eternal admiration, he had a crooked grin on his face, and his head was nodding up & down in approval. He had a great sense of humor which he (mostly) concealed from us. He also had an immense sense of integrity, generosity, compassion, love for academia and loyalty that couldn't be hidden from anyone who met and was privileged to know him."

-Nick Ahumada
St Pat's 1964-1960



"Because of John C. Panter Jr., I chose to pursue English teaching as a career. Starting as a ninth grade English teacher and continuing to the present as a college-level teacher of future English teachers, I have taught English in one way or another for 34 years. I learned to write from Mr. Panter.

The grammar that I learned from him in 8th grade served me well through graduate school up to the present. I was the only guy in advance grammar at UNC Chapel Hill who knew what a nominative absolute was. I made a point to tell Mr. Kennedy that I learned it in the 8th grade from John Panter, I learned to appreciate literature from Mr. Panter. I joined the civil rights struggle because of him. And because of Mr. Panter, I played basketball. From him, I learned to understand the game, and because of him, I was able to coach basketball for seven years.

No one had more influence on my development as a person. To me and to many of us who were taught by him, he was the best teacher ever. How he ended up at St. Pat's is a great mystery to me. The fact that he ended up at St. Pat's made all the difference in my life.


I have a few things that Mr. Panter gave me, and I count them among my most priceless possessions. One is a copy of Bob Dylan's record, "Nashville Skyline". He told me I should listen to it carefully. And I did. When I tried to return it, he told me to keep it. I'm still listening to it. Another is a copy of T.S. Eliot's famous collection of essays on poetry and criticism, The Sacred Wood – pretty heady stuff to give a high school kid. I gift that keeps on giving, I've cited that book in papers throughout my career. And he also gave me his personal copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby. Mr. Panter used it when he was a student at Notre Dame. It's annotated in pencil – the margins full of his hand-written notes, aside and comments. Stack of Books

He copied one of Emily Dickinson's poems in the front of the book. I never asked him, but I think it must have been one of his favorite poems. Like many of her works, it's a distillation of sound, silence and meaning. And when I think of Mr. Panter, which I do often, I speak the lines:


[From "Part 5: The Single Hound"]

The missing All prevented me
From missing minor things.
If nothing larger than a World's
Departure from a hinge,
Or Sun's extinction be observed,
'Twas not so large that I
Could lift my forehead from my work
For curiosity.

Mrs. Panter called me after Mr. Panter died and asked me to be pall bearer at his funeral. I was in New Orleans at the time and could not get back to Fayetteville in time for the funeral. I will never completely forgive myself for not being at his funeral. But to this day, Kay's asking me to serve in that capacity is the greatest honor I have been given.

Thanks, JP, for everything."

-James (Jim) Charles
Class of 1971

 


John C Panter's Legacy:
The Art of Giving to Help the Living

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