In 1998, I met someone who would inspire me and keep me going through some of the hardest days on my life. Paul Schierhorn was my college counselor, a professor at Tulane University's Theatre Department and the person most responsible for not letting me quit on life even when that was what I wanted most of all. He was more then my teacher. He was my friend.
I'll never forget being in "Working", crying because I was crumbling from the pressures of my life and I didn't think I could perform the song he'd asked me to do. "Give the song to someone else," I begged. With tears in his eyes, he said, "No. I'm not going to let you quit. You can do this. I believe in you." And, I did. I sang the shit out of that song. Not long after, he was in a bike accident and sustained a head injury, and many of us thought he wouldn't make it. But, he fought, and he pulled through and he was back teaching a few months later.
Later that same year, the end of my sophomore year, I was ready to leave Tulane and go home, broken and failed. I knew there was nothing anyone could say to change my mind. I was finished. He changed my mind. He patiently and gently but with passionate convinction convinced me to come back for one more year. Again, he wouldn't let me quit. And, I was in one of the best productions, one of the most fulfilling theatrical experiences, I've ever had as a result. And, I was in it with him.
Over the years, we have stayed in touch. He once walked to my house just to have lunch with me. He still believed in me, even eleven years after I left school. We spoke on Facebook just a month or two ago. I always assumed I'd see him again one day, and get to thank him for what he gave me.
He has passed away. The world has lost a rich, strong voice, and a wonderful human being. He changed my life, and the lives of many others.
Thank you, Paul, for never letting me quit.