You can do better

Dr. Julian and yours truly.

Spring semester. 1991. The University of Tennessee- Knoxville. Humanities Bldg. Second floor. Speech class. Dr. Faye Julian is passing out the first graded exam of the semester. I wait as she works her way around the room. I could see the red numbers on everyone’s exams. Then she came up and placed my paper on the desk.


I felt joy and a little bit cocky.

Then she stopped, looked me in the eye and said four words that still echo in my brain.

“You can do better.”

What?!? I got a freaking A. She must have been nuts.

But she didn’t back down. She said, “You have talent. I want you to make the most of it. So — you can do better.”

And you know what? I did.

I think about Dr. Julian every time I give a speech. I use many of the skills I learned in her class. She became a friend and an advisor to my early career. She believed in my talent and that hard work is the only way to make that talent truly shine.

Her memory is fading now. I saw her a couple of years ago and she perked up when she saw me. That meant the world to me. A few years ago, I told her that she was my favorite professor. She smiled and said I was her second favorite student.

Offended, I protested, “Who’s #1?”

She smiled and said, “Peyton Manning.”

OK, I can live with that.

But think about what she told me. What can you do better in YOUR life? I’m thinking about that this morning.

We all need more Dr. Julian’s in our lives. We need people who will push us to do better.

About Marshall Ramsey