STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 04/09/2015

Remembering Mr. D

By Meadow Rue (Lincoln) Merrill ’94

When I transferred to Gordon as a sophomore in the fall of 1991, I knew I wanted to study journalism. Back then the College didn’t have a communication arts major, but it did have a sharp-eyed, seasoned former newspaper reporter and television and radio editorial writer teaching Intro to Journalism. Harry Durning had put in 20 years as editorial director for Boston’s WBZ-TV, and had served as public relations director for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, among many other professional and civic involvements. And here he was—at Gordon.

Mr. D, as students affectionately knew him, insisted on clear, simple writing; he repeatedly passed out sloppy newspaper clips for us to edit in class. In reading our own fledgling attempts at news writing, he often lamented our overuse of commas, insisting they were not to be “sprinkled over the page like pepper.” And he made us memorize the entire AP Stylebook, an inch-thick grammar and spelling guide used by papers around the country.

But what I most remember about Mr. D was how very much he wanted to help students succeed, picking up one of my classmates each week at the local T, taking a personal interest in our goals, and helping me land my first newspaper internship. When I graduated with a B.A. in English three years later, Mr. D sent me on my way with a pocket-sized dictionary inscribed with his best wishes.

This little book has sat on my desk for two decades now—first at the Maine newspaper where I began as a general reporter, now in the home office where I freelance for regional and national publications. Even after retiring from Gordon in 1997, Mr. D cheered me on, clipping articles I’d written and mailing them to me with encouraging notes typed on his clunky old typewriter.

“Where do you find a teacher like that?” I asked my husband after I had learned of Mr. D’s passing. He had attended our wedding and once walked our firstborn son around the block in a baby carriage.“Where do you find someone who cares that much?”

I found him at Gordon. And wherever my writing takes me, my life and work will always be influenced by Mr. D’s.

Meadow Rue (Lincoln) Merrill has been a correspondent for The Boston Globe, and now contributes to Down East magazine and other publications. Her forthcoming book, Redeeming Ruth, is a memoir about the life and loss of her daughter. Meadow, an advocate for orphans and people with disabilities, lives in Maine with her family.


mr d