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A kettle of Kuhlman memories

Readers share stories about former Econ 51 Professor John Kuhlman


Professor John Kuhlman, who taught Econ 51 at MU, now teaches English as a second language in Asheville, N.C. Stories about former Econ 51 Professor John Kuhlman continue to bubble up, sparked by coverage in MIZZOU magazine. Read more memories below, and feel free to submit your own.

Share your comments with Mizzou magazine at

Note: If published, feedback may be edited for length, style and clarity.

Reader Feedback

Lifelong lessons learned

Why is it that so many Mizzou students remember your teaching with such clarity? I am among them. It may have been fear, because the material was so unfamiliar to a literature- and history-mad girl. What was your secret for making so many disparate types of students work so hard in your class? I remember a lot of the concepts you taught, and it certainly helped me a year or two laterwhen I developed my daily habit of reading the Wall Street Journal.

You taught me another life lesson outside the classroom. I had organized a float trip that you participated in. I recall that the canoe company was somewhat disorganized about getting the canoes in the water and getting the group launched. You loudly declared that someone responsible should correct things. I realized I couldn't just stand on the shore and cede responsibility to the adult men I had hired to handle the logistics. I had to step up and take charge. I did, and it was a valuable lesson.

It's so gratifying to know that you're continuing your life work with a population that needs you even more than we clueless sophomores did. I was never so happy to get a B in my life. (And I hope that's not wishful remembering and I actually got a C.)

My thanks to you for your excellent teaching.

Margaret "Peggy" Engel, BJ '73, of Bethesda, Md. | Nov. 25, 2008

Whine, whine, whine

I was one of those whining journalism students who was required to attend your Econ 51 class — and ended up loving it! Your lectures stand out as a highlight of my time at Mizzou. (I can't say the same for your weekly quizzes, but I respect your devious brilliance for requiring them.)

I often think about how much economics drives everything we do, and how little time is spent covering that topic in education. I feel fortunate to have received a foundation in the basics from you.

It was a pleasure to read about you in the recent alumni magazine, and I'm glad you're doing well, including still teaching some lucky students.

Gayle Keck, BJ '77, of San Francisco | Nov. 13, 2008

An investment in the future
I was very pleased to read about your current activity and work in MIZZOU magazine. I was in several of your undergraduate classes in 1971–73 (including Econ 51), and have long wanted to say "thank you.”

Since graduating, I've worked in the public sector, mostly federal. Although my career has never been directly in the field of economics, I have found that much of human behavior, inside and outside of business and government, is strongly influenced and explained by basic economic principles that I learned in your classes. At times, I've felt as if I had a "secret key" to understanding the motives and actions of individuals, groups and organizations, and particularly the impact and likely (unintended) consequences of public policy and government decisions.

I learned in your classes, partly because of your skill as a speaker and teacher; partly because of your depth of knowledge and breadth of intellect; but mostly, because it was not just dry information and knowledge. It truly mattered — obviously to you, and therefore to us students. We were"infected" by your passion.

I had many professors in my college years, and many teachers in various settings since then. Only a few had significant impact upon me. But of those, none can match the gratitude and respect that I carry for you. Thank you for investing yourself in your students.

David A. Rouggly, BA '73, of Richmond, Calif. | , 

Assumptions are dangerous

I recently read the article concerning your post-retirement career in MIZZOU and felt compelled to write. I graduated from the University of Missouri in 1969, and while my memory of Econ 51 isn’t as precise as I might wish, it was probably the best course that I took in my four years at the university. Virtually every time I pick up a newspaper or read a weekly news magazine, I am reminded of how indebted I am to you for teaching me crucial basic concepts in macroeconomics. Although I’m an unabashed chauvinist for the discipline of history, I consistently tell my advisees that the single most valuable course I ever took as an undergraduate was introduction to economics. Thanks so much for an insightful and truly illuminating course.

I thought that you might enjoy reading about one of my memories. The semester before I took the course, my roommate took your course and had earned an “A.” Apparently, that semester you decided to exempt anyone who had an “A” going into the final from having to take the final examination. I remembered that policy and was thus elated to have an “A” going into the final. Day after day went by, however, without your making an announcement that those of us with an “A” would be exempt.

Finally, unable to contain my impatience, I went up to you after class about a week before the course was over and asked, “Are you planning to exempt people with an “A” from the final?”

You looked at me rather blandly and responded, “No, why would you ask?” After stumbling around for an answer, I left with my tail between my legs. It was a good lesson for me on not making presumptions based on the past — and me a historian!

I was sorry to hear that your hearing had deserted you, but I think that your work with non-English speakers is enormously admirable. I hope that, other than your hearing, this note finds you in good health.

Thanks again for offering me such wonderful instruction in economics. My life has been much richer as a result.

Jon H. Roberts, BA '69, of Waltham, Mass. | Nov. 13, 2008

Thanks for the memories

I was excited to read about you in MIZZOU and have the opportunity to tell you how much I enjoyed your lectures. I found them not only informative but also entertaining. In fact, I would sometimes just wander in for a lecture after I had completed the course. I doubt there are many professors who can claim that about former students. It does not surprise me that you continue to teach. Anyone who watched you realizes that you love to teach and have a passion for it. Thank you for the memories and the understanding of economics.

Joe Mundy, BS BA '78, of Sparks, Nev. | Nov. 13, 2008

Speak up; ask for help

When my teenagers encountered trouble in a subject, I always advised them to try their hardest and not to be afraid of their teachers and used you as an example of someone who was accessible. I told them that even in your very large lecture class, I always felt that you knew that I was there. Both of my daughters — quick studies — said, “Duh. There were probably very few black kids in that class, right?” I told you they were quick studies! Anyway, I remember that once during an exam you sat down next to me and pointed to a problem and suggested that I do it over. That was appreciated.

I so admire what you're doing now but you know, you never did listen with just your ears.

Dottie Gaiter, BJ '73, of New York | Nov. 13, 2008

From scared to confident 

I was so excited when I saw the recent article about you in MIZZOU magazine! I graduated in 1976 and you were my professor for Econ 51. As a fashion merchandising major, I was scared to take the course based on stories I had heard about how hard it would be. Frankly, it was one of my favorite courses, and you were probably the best instructor I had at MU. My roommate and I would take the long walk to our quizzes, and then walk home either happy or sad depending on our answers to those few but deadly multiple-choice questions.

I particularly remember the time during the “streaking”craze when a student ran across the Middlebush stage behind you. How funny was that? I also remember how you used to make fun of accountants and how they were always in a “cloud of chalk dust.”

I ended up with an "A" in your course and you were nice enough to send me a letter of congratulations. I still have it. I went on to get my MBA later in life, and my economic background served me well.

I just wanted you to know that you definitely made a difference in my life. You did such a great job teaching — you have a gift for it. I was sorry to learn about your hearing loss. I hope you are doing well otherwise. I feel certain that you are continuing to inspire your current students. When I think about college life, I always think about you.

Linda Fribis Hoffmann, BS HE '76, of St. Louis | Nov. 13, 2008