In Loving Memory
Steve McCarl, an alumnus of IAU's first class in 1958-1959, passed away in June at the age of 85. Steve attended Kansas State University before studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence. After meeting his wife Barb while at IAU, Steve returned to Colorado where he became a professor of Political Science at the University of Denver. Steve was also incredibly supportive of IAU and would proactively recruit DU students to enroll at IAU. He also served on IAU's academic advisory board. The McCarls remained involved with the IAU community and hosted several alumni events in the Denver area in which Steve would make heartfelt speeches that left lasting impressions on all who attended. At the alumni reception in Denver in 2019, Steve shared:
"Aix-en-Provence is an enchanting place: beautiful fountains around nearly every corner, the Cours Mirabeau, rich architecture, Roman ruins, a Mediterranean climate, and incredibly fresh vegetables and fruits at the market every day. But what draws us back to Aix time and again is the IAU. The IAU makes Aix the home of our hearts. It is not just the current faculty, staff, students, and Board of Trustees but the extended family of people associated with the IAU over its sixty-year history. Once an IAU’er always an IAU’er. It is the extended IAU family that we love and cherish."
On Sept 7, 2015, at the IAU Orientation Meeting for new students in Aix-en-Provence, France, Steve was asked to share a few words to the students who had just made that giant leap by studying abroad. Here are his words, which continue to resonate with us:
"In early September 1958, fifty-seven years ago, I came to Aix to study at IAU, though in those days it was just the IAU, not yet a college. I remember reading a letter that was an invitation to a tea, a reception for the new students at the IAU. The reception was to be held Sunday afternoon at the private residence of Herbert and Monica Maza. Dr. Maza was the Founder and President of the IAU. Monica, his wife, more or less took care of us, arranged housing, and so on. The Maza residence was not difficult to find, even for someone unacquainted with Aix, for it was situated on the Cour Mirabeau alongside the cafés about halfway between Les Deux Garçons and the majestic fountain at the foot of the Cour. All of the IAU students then, unlike our situation today, were able to congregate comfortably in the Maza residence. This was 1958. Undergraduate study abroad was nearly unheard of. Some Ivy League schools had limited programs, but that was it. The IAU completely changed the study abroad landscape by making study abroad available to students across America.
At the beginning of this orientation when Dr. Smith introduced me, he also introduced Barbara Slemmons. Barb arrived in Aix in 1958 from the University of Iowa and I arrived from the University of Denver. Independently first we fell in love with Aix; second, we fell in love with the IAU, and third, we fell in love with each other. The third falling in love we did not recognize until after we left Aix in June of 1959. We were married in December 1959. Our love for Aix, for IAU, and for each other keeps bringing us back time and again. Here is our heart home, our soul home.
From history, we now turn to philosophy. PHILOSOPHY? MY GOD THIS PROFESSOR IS GOING TO FRY OUR BRAINS BY READING HEGEL TO US IN GERMAN. Relax. This will be a very small bit of philosophy; it won’t hurt. In fact, it will be good for you. Our thoughts about life are not the same as life, because life is perpetually out in front of our thoughts. Our thoughts cannot stay up with the dynamics and complexities of life. We cannot construct a thinking box into which life fits. It is not that our thoughts are unimportant; they are vital, for in large measure we orient ourselves to life in our thinking—for better or worse. Moreover, we have a feeling of life. We feel the taste of a croissant melting in our mouth; we feel the wondrous sensation of a kiss. We feel the magnetism of a Monet, a Manet, a Cezanne; we feel the rhythms in music, in poetry, in nature: the rising and setting sun; the waves crashing on a beach; the rising and falling of our own breath. We may even feel the rhythms of Aix and of each other. To develop our feeling life we turn to poetry, literature, music, art, and meditation. In doing so we may come to experience the feeling that life loves us; yes, to feel that life loves us. Life loving us is not a thinking experience; it is a feeling experience. What does this have to do with you being here in Aix for this semester? To answer this question, I propose that we do an experiment with imagining. I invite you to imagine that it is 2065; it was fifty years ago that you were in Aix as a student at IAU. You are in your seventies; you look like me: aged, but still good-looking and charismatic.
Back to the point, it is 2065 and you are reflecting on the past fifty years of your life. What did being in Aix and studying at IAU mean? What difference did it make in the subsequent fifty years of your life? One possibility is that the feeling that life loves you was greatly intensified by your experience in Aix and that feeling persisted throughout those fifty years. And during those fifty years, your response to life loving you was to love life in return. Well, that’s the philosophy lesson for today. We hope that your semester will be filled with wonder, delight, and the feeling that life loves you and you love life. Thanks, everybody; thank you for your attention."