And the hits keep coming. IN MEMORIAM Dr SCOTT AUSTIN, former Texas A&M Undergraduate Academic Philosophy Adviser and Philosophy Club Mentor, Friend and closet Raver.
Don't know how close most college students are to their advisors, but Dr. Austin was everything the letter below says he is and BMF, too. He came to several house parties to hear me spin. He wouldn't dance, but he liked to sit and watch the lights and speak to several us about how Dionysian our scene was or tell whoever would listen stories about his father who was a Zen Buddhist Master. Then he'd call a cab and make a quick exit (didn't want to be there when the Bryan Police showed up to harass us and hand out tickets to any minors stupid enough to get caught with a cup in hand...wouldn't look good for an A&M Professor to be there).
He admired his father although he did say sometimes he thought his father was full of shit. One night he asked his father what the meaning of life was. He wanted to hear what the badass Zen Buddhist Master had to say about that and he expected some poetic speech full of Buddhist aphorisms. His father didn't say anything. He smiled and pointed to the moon. That was his answer.
I think about that story often. Especially, when I remember how he offered to pay for a lawyer for me if I wanted him too, after I failed a lie detector test about a laptop that belonged to a friend. I missed about 3 weeks of school because of that. I thought I was fucked. I had told the truth and failed a lie detector and now the police thought I was lying. What I had done was withhold info unrelated to the laptop but relevant to why I was in the house when the detectives believe the laptop was stolen. Camera footage showed that I had gone in the direction of the room where the laptop was and that I never returned. That was true. I went to the restroom and then moments later the friend I brought said let's leave. So we went out the front door. The detectives said we were the only ones in the house. And I told them, that that was incorrect. There were several other people there. So in November I'm failing a lie detector. I'm missing school thinking I'm going to jail for something I didn't do. The party was in August. And Scott Austin shows up at my door.
My Academic Adviser came to check on me. I told him everything and after telling him I could never afford a lawyer if it came down to it, he offered to pay out of his own pocket for everything. He also told me Texas A&M has lawyers that are their to protect students that I could use free of charge. The laptop it turned out had been in the Police Department's lost and found since the day after the party and was returned undamaged to the owner. A shitty apology turned up in my email from the detectives thanking me for my cooperation.
Dr. Austin was not a rich man. He looked so much like a homeless man sometimes that one day, while sitting outside a bookstore in Bryan, Texas waiting on a cab, some good samaritans brought him some food and offered to take him to a homeless shelter. LMAO. His clothes were stained with coffee and had cigarette burns. His teeth were discolored and his breathe reeked of tobacco and coffee. He'd fumble for a cigarette during class until he remembered where he was. He had been single most of his life and never had any children. His apartment was very small and full of books and he'd tell me how he'd been reading Plato lately and every night thrown his copy of The Dialogues as hard as he could against the wall in a fit of anger. "Sometimes Plato is just so full of shit, man!"
He was pretty awesome. Crazy sometimes. He came to me when the Philosophy Department asked him to choose a student to submit the paperwork required to make our unofficial TAMU "Philosophy Club" official. I was the first President of the Texas A&M University Philosophy club and my roommate was the Vice President, because he was there when I needed another signature. And I'll never forget the last required meeting for all applicants seeking to make their club an offical A&M club. Worst migraine I ever had. Could barely see the paper I signed saying I was there and I puked my guts about 5 feet away from that paper. But I did it. I did it for Dr. Austin. Sorry I have never been back to A&M since I left. He was one of two reasons I'd even go back.
So Dr Austin, if you're listening, thanks for everything, sorry I didn't have the balls to finish up school and sorry I never went back to see ya. You taught me how to listen and how to be open-minded without letting my brain fall out. Ray is somewhere. But I'm sure he knows by now too. And my copy of The Dialogues cost too much to throw at a wall but I'll throw Aristotle's METAPHYSICS (thanks for not making us read too much of that one). And I'll play Josh Wink's Higher State of Consciousness for ya. You were something of a Rockstar on Campus or just some Oddball Curiosity who people liked to talk philosophy with. Thanks for everything, man. Will Walker
THE LETTER POSTED ON THE TEXAS A&M PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT'S WEBPAGE
"It is with great sadness that I write to notify you of the death of our beloved colleague, teacher, and friend Scott Austin. Professor Austin was a dedicated member of the Texas A&M University faculty in the Department of Philosophy since 1988. An internationally regarded scholar of ancient Greek philosophy, his first book appeared with Yale University Press and is entitled Parmenides: Being, Bounds, and Logic (1986). He is also the author of Parmenides and the History of Dialectic (2007), as well as many scholarly articles in his areas of interest. His most recent book, which appeared only within the last weeks, is Tao and Trinity: Notes on Self-Reference and the Unity of Opposites in Philosophy (2014).
Professor Austin is moreover remembered in our community in particular for his inimitable pedagogy and devotion to our students. He mentored numerous graduate students and countless undergraduates in his time at Texas A&M; he served as the director and faculty advisor of the undergraduate program in philosophy for many years; and he also served as the faculty advisor of our departmental undergraduate journal and philosophy club. Professor Austin is remembered for the generosity and warmth he showed toward his students, the patient attention he gave to them, and, above all, his care for the respectively unique aspirations they held and challenges they faced. He came to be celebrated in recent years—and was even the subject of an interview in the Battalion in September of 2013—for the informal teaching and advising that he could regularly be seen to offer while seated on the bench outside of the back entrance of the YMCA Building.
Professor Austin’s death represents an immeasurable loss to our college community and he will be dearly missed. A Memorial Observance for Scott Austin will be held on Friday, February 6, 4:00 pm, in MSC Ballroom 2300B. The program of the Observance will include short reflections on Dr. Austin and will be directly followed by a reception.