Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A Class with Class

It has been tough for me to decide what I miss most, career-wise, since I retired after a career of nearly 40 years at Ole Miss.

Is it the classes I taught that gave me an opportunity to teach and challenge and provide new information to the bright Pharmacy students, or the thrill of research during which I discovered chemical compounds never previously known to have existed in the universe, or the challenge of administration –– trying to lead the university to new national research recognition? Almost a three-way tie with teaching and research head to head.

However, of all these golden opportunities, one stands out vividly and it happened in the classroom. As I was preparing to present a lecture to fourth year Pharmacy students enrolled in my medicinal chemistry class, a small group of students stood outside the classroom and asked me if I would do them a favor.

Apparently, the previous night, they had attended a performance of the Ole Miss Black Gospel Choir during which one of their classmates, Jovan Williams, was scheduled to perform solo. At the last moment the choir changed the schedule and Jovan did not have the opportunity to perform her solo song.

The students were disappointed and asked if I would invite Jovan to sing in class. Obviously, my first reaction was negative since, after all, this was a chemistry class and not a music class. But the request was a curious one, and I decided to go along.

As class was preparing to start, I went to Jovan at her desk and told her about the request her fellow students made. She was embarrassed and shy and at first denied the request.

When I told her how disappointed her classmates would be, she asked, “Well, what would I sing?” Taking a chance I responded, “Sing whatever you want.” She said she would think about it for a moment or two.

When class formally began, I told the students that a request had been made to hear Jovan sing. Most of the students thought I was joking.

To my surprise, Jovan stood up and moved into the aisle and began to beautifully and movingly sing –– The National Anthem! As she hit the first notes, the students rose as a group and all of us placed our hands on our hearts.

Jovan’s splendid voice filled the room and she didn’t miss a note. On top of that, she finished in the one minute twenty seconds the anthem should take to sing.

When she finished everyone in the class, myself included, applauded and Jovan sat down. It was difficult to start lecturing on antihistamine drugs.

I could not help but think that we should start every class with the National Anthem. Now that would be an experience!

A New Orleans native, Ron Borne is a medicinal chemist by experience, and an amateur writer by avocation.  He served Ole Miss and the School of Pharmacy as a teacher, researcher and administrator for more than 40 years and is now “retired” and living in his center of the universe. Email him at

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