Doing any job for more than 50 years is an incredible feat. In 56 years one man at Virginia Tech has been a dean and the school's president.
But Dr. Paul Torgersen said teaching has always been his first love.
Wednesday morning, mostly engineering students watched one last time as Paul Torgersen shuffled into his "Theory of Organization" class in the basement of Pamplin School of Business at Virginia Tech. 56 straight years and never missing a single semester and Torgerson wasn't about to start. Watching and waiting until his students had found their assigned seats, then he was very clear.
"Ok, it's time to get started."
Tall and trim, this engineer -over five decades- has been around the block. As department head, Dean and president of Virginia Tech. He was asked to lead the Hokie nation. Torgersen agreed, but only if he could keep teaching too
"The people in charge said 'We need you'. I said 'are you sure?' They said 'we need you.' Well I made a condition, I'll become an administrator, but I'm not going to leave the classroom."
Torgersen and Tech both kept their word. Each year students have packed his classes. Word spread on campus about Dr. Torgersen and the life lessons he included.
Lorrie Sanders is a Human Nutrition Food and Exercise Major, not an engineer. She'd heard that Torgerson taught with kindness, concern and a lot of common sense.
"There's stuff like writing a 'thank you' letter and how important that is and to have that in writing and [Dr Torgerson] is just is so wise. You can't put a price on the little things he's taught us for sure."
Nearly six decades spent teaching students more than just engineering. Torgerson, behind a podium and using power point, explained another real life lesson to the classroom.
"It helps to speak clearly. It helps to be able to write well and if you don't do that well, practice."
Most students and faculty don't know Dr. Torgerson's personal struggles. Three years ago, his tongue was removed to stop a spreading cancer and he now drinks and eats through a tube three times a day. Parkinson's has now become part of his life too. In spite of those very real issues, Torgersen couldn't be kept away from the classroom.
Engineering Dean Dr. Richard Benson shook Dr. Torgerson's hand, smiled and had his picture taken.
"[Dr. Torgerson] is our best teacher, you may have heard me say that but it's actually true. We know that repeatedly from comments from students.''
Students don't treat Torgersen like a dean or professor or even a university president, they treat him like a rock star.
Autographs, cell phone pictures and a line of students who wanted to speak with him one more time.
The son, James Torgerson, knows his father's struggles and joys.
"He's gone through a lot but he will also be the first to tell you life is good. He wouldn't change anything. He's my best friend and like he said, I'll say the same thing; Life is good."
After signing all those autographs, Dr. Torgerson said he'd be back as a surprise guest next year.
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