Tomorrow, Dr. Richard Watts will undergo surgery to remove a large cancerous mass from his brain. Most, if not all of you will ask who is Dr. Richard Watts and why does it matter. For most, the name is not familiar and tomorrow will be yet another day we are in a pandemic, but for me, it is much more.
Dr. Watts was my main professor at Baylor when I was in graduate school in counseling… he had a gigantic impact on where I am today. He helped me see myself in new ways and believed in me in such a simple and natural way, I believed in myself. I can still see myself sitting in a large room at Baylor for my interview to get into the counseling program. He asked many questions but one was about why people needing counseling more now than previously. I talked about the lack of connection and community that once existed… little did I know this answer would become the basis of so much of my belief, research… but also his… I was Adlerian before I even knew who Alfred Adler was!
In a small graduate program, you get the advantage of having the same professor for multiple classes. I not only had Dr. Watts for theory but also for practicum and internship. It was during an internship class he offered me grace in a way that would stick in my mind for decades. I was working 20 hours a week, interning 20 hours a week, and taking a full load. I had a case study due the next day and it was midnight. As I looked at my computer I thought I could produce garbage and turn it in or go to bed. For once in my life, I took the chance of not completing an assignment and went to bed. The next day when I got to class, I told him. Without taking a breath, he said ok, just get it to me in the next few weeks. Such a simple act on his part continues to speak to me today and my ability to say I didn’t get it completed.
His most profound impact on me was when I took an independent study class with him one summer. I wanted to take his spirituality and counseling course but it had not fit into my spring schedule. He allowed me to take it in the summer…. but quickly I realized my reading assignments were HUGE compared to taking it during the semester. As I worked on a final paper I realized I wanted to continue to do Ph.D. work in counseling. I remember asking him about it in his office one day. Once again he didn’t even take a breath and started to discuss different programs. When I let him know I could go out of state he suggested UNCG which would end up being a decision that would change my life forever.
You see Dr. Watts believed in my academic ability without sitting me down and saying, Amy, I think you are intelligent…. instead he challenged me and pushed me in ways he knew I needed to grow. He offered me grace when it was needed, but treated me like the academic I so badly wanted to become. His belief in me lead me to UNCG and to the path I am on today… his nudge led me to study under the fantastic Dr. Jane Myers, who died years ago… who I never got to tell how much she impacts me daily.
Dr. Watts goes for brain surgery tomorrow and I do not want to miss my opportunity to say you made a difference in me… you made a difference because you cared… because you believed… because you saw in me what I could not see. There is no way to know what tomorrow holds for any of us, but what I do know is we each have today and it is critical we tell those who impact us what they mean. Thank you, Dr. Watts… you raised me up to more than I can be.