Ask a Professor: Quotes to inspire, motivate during midterms

Mark Crosby, associate professor of English, reads a book by French essayist Marcel Proust. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

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Need some inspiration? With midterms hounding us all, look no further than your professor’s office. Here are four Kansas State professors’ favorite famous quotes to lift you up and help you feel a little more wise.

1. How to seek knowledge

Nathan Hendricks, associate professor of agricultural economics, shared a quote from the French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux to assist in improving one’s understanding of the world: “There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.”

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Nathan Hendricks, associate professor of agricultural economics, poses for a portrait in the Waters Hall courtyard. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

“I appreciate this quote because it gives an excellent perspective of why we seek knowledge together in the university,” Hendricks said. “In my teaching and research, I have to guard against mere curiosity or vanity and instead pursue the higher goal of love — sometimes translated as charity — by using that knowledge to serve others.”

2. Examining your motives

“In the middle of a busy semester, I like to remember a quote from a book by my favorite author, Robert Heinlein,” Amy Betz, associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, said. “‘Any statement that starts ‘I really ought to —‘ is suspect. It means you haven’t analyzed your motives.’

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Amy Betz, associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, stands outside Rathbone Hall. Alongside her teaching responsibilities, Betz says she works to promote women in engineering. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

“It is from the Robert Heinlein book ‘Have Space Suit, Will Travel’ and was spoken by the character Dr. Russell,” Betz continued. “When I get very busy and think there are many things I ought to do, I stop and reflect about what is my motivation for each task and how is it helping me to achieve my goals. After this reflection, I find that there are many items that I can eliminate. I also find that there are some things I still must do but I have a new found zeal for accomplishing these tasks because I better understand why I am doing it.”

Betz also said this quote can have a lot of meaning for students, too.

“I think students also feel various social and academic pressures that can lead to a very busy life and ultimately some guilt or shame that they are not making the most of their opportunities or that they are not ‘good students,'” Betz said. “I would encourage students to stop and reflect any time they think or say, ‘I ought to study more,’ or ‘I ought to take another course.'”

3. Literary lessons

When asked about the wise adages we can find in literature, Mark Crosby, associate professor of English, said he had trouble choosing only one.

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Mark Crosby, associate professor of English, reads a book by French essayist Marcel Proust. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

“I would certainly like to offer my favorite, but alas, I have trouble alighting on just one,” Crosby said. He offered four quotes:

“The great instrument of moral good is the imagination,” from Percy Shelley, poet and Mary Shelley’s husband.

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour,” from William Blake, poet and painter.

“The universe is true for us all and dissimilar to each of us,” from Marcel Proust, French essayist. Also from Proust: “All from my cup of tea.”

“These last two notes are from Proust’s great work, ‘Remembrance of Things Past,'” Crosby said. “The last quote refers to the wonderful passage about recalling seemingly forgotten memories by drinking tea and eating cake. It is a beautiful piece of writing.”

4. On doubt and decision-making

“I love quotes,” said Brett DePaola, department of physics head and professor of physics. “But my favorite varies, often from week to week.”

He shared a quote from the movie “Ronin”: “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.”

“I interpret this to mean, in a critical situation, when there is any doubt, treat as if there is certainty of a problem,” DePaola said. “In this context, I interpret the quote to mean, for a lifetime position as critical as Justice of the Supreme Court, if there are any doubts at all about a nominee, you do not select him/her; there are enough other qualified candidates available for that post.”

I’m Olivia Rogers. I graduated with dual degrees in philosophy and political science in May 2020. After I graduated, I went on to attend law school at Notre Dame. While at the Collegian, I served as the community editor for several semesters, working to share the opinions of the K-State student body. I write because: “Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”― Madeleine L'Engle