Former student of Christopher M. Sorensen
2007 Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year
Willard Intercontinental Washington Hotel
November 15, 2007
Of all the classes that I needed to take as an undergraduate at Kansas State University, I think that Conceptual Physics-"P-World 101"under Professor Christopher Sorensen-was perhaps the class I dreaded most. Not because I knew anything of Professor Sorensen, I did not, but because as an art major I just could not see the relevance of the world of academic physics to my interests and pursuits.
I was 34 years of age when I first set foot on a college campus; my history was primarily one of two decades of steel fabrication and auto-body collision repair. My decision to attend college was not so much motivated by my conviction in the value of higher education (of which I was skeptical), but rather by my hope that an undergraduate college degree-any degree-might serve as a ticket from my past.
The imminent "P-World 101" with Professor Sorensen appeared to me on paper as one more drably painted, institutional cinder block lecture hall mid-morning obstacle course to negotiate for three months in order to fulfill my BFA checklist and get my ticket out.
Although I had accurately imagined the institutional venue, I could not have been more mistaken about the impact Christopher Sorensen and P-World were to have on my life-meteoric, one might say, speaking conceptually. Daniel Tiffany, in his book "Toy Medium: Materialism and Modern Lyric" writes, "Both science and poetry proceed, in part, by making pictures of what we cannot see (or merely escapes our notice), by attributing corporeal properties to inscrutable events."
I am here as a witness to the rare and exquisitely profound phenomena of a teacher who is so deeply and devotedly at one with his craft, and his calling, that he is what he teaches. Professor Christopher Sorensen taught class as if there was no place on earth-or elsewhere-that he would rather have been. If you think of a writer who brings to life through the written word a character so compelling, beautiful and real that you, the reader, fall in love as well, then that is the best analogy I can give you for how Chris Sorensen, through the concepts of physics, gave me the first non-linear vision of our world and the universe that I had lived in my whole life.
As an artist, P-World 101 was the most influential class of my entire undergraduate experience. As a husband, father, and all-too temporary inhabitant of this planet Earth, I am deeply honored that Christopher Sorensen's paths and mine have intersected; we all need good and trustworthy guides when we travel in unfamiliar territory. To conclude, in the spirit of Tiffany's quote, Professor Christopher Sorensen, while standing on a desk in a cinder block lecture hall in central Kansas-and armed primarily with either a set of one-armed reading glasses and/or a dented lead ball-gave me images of our world and universe that I could never have seen on my own. He is physics embodied, and physics is beautiful.
Thank you, Chris.
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