Grant V. Frazer

“Sean, it’s good, but it could be better.”

I heard that phrase so many times sitting in Mr. Frazer’s small office in the corner of Fuller Hall; his soft but clear and almost musical voice still echoes in my head. I knew what it meant.
Mr. Frazer was about to pull out his red pen and deconstruct my essay paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word.
 
“What are you trying to say?,” he would ask.

I would sputter some response.

“Then why didn’t you say that?” And then Mr. Frazer would scribble some notes in the margin with his red pen.

“Why did you use this word?,” he continued to press.

“I don’t know,” I would reply, avoiding his gaze.

“Then look it up and tell me what it means,” he would respond as he handed me his well-thumbed dictionary. As I read the definition, he would circle the word with his red pen and write more notes.

And so it went until my essay was obliterated by a sea of red ink. And then Mr. Frazer would send me on my way to rewrite the essay.

Dejected, I would walk out of his office and mutter under my breath, “Well, what was so good about it?”

It was frustrating at the time, but through the process Mr. Frazer developed my ability to write – how to choose my words, structure sentences and paragraphs, edit, and rewrite, and how to know when it’s good and that’s good enough. I went to Dartmouth and then law school, but nobody taught me more than Mr. Frazer did.

Not a day goes by that I don’t use the gift Grant Frazer gave me. I’m not a great writer, but I’m a competent writer. And that has served me well throughout my life. I’ve gone from lawyer to policy analyst to lobbyist to publicist to communications specialist to digital media evangelist to not-for-profit executive to community activist to local historian. The one skill that has sustained me throughout all of these is the ability to communicate through the written word.

One of my greatest regrets is that I never thanked Mr. Frazer for teaching me how to write, and for his tremendous patience with, and nurturing of, me. So let me correct that wrong and say, “Mr. Frazer, thank you. You were the best teacher I ever had, and you made a difference in my life. (And, yes, I know this is good, but it could be better!)”
~ Sean Bersell '77

There are many faculty members that made a difference for me during my years at VA. The one that made the most difference after those VA years was Grant Frazer. Grant taught me how to speak in public. I still remember to this day the tricks and skills one must use to be able to speak in front of a group. I have successfully been able to pass on thoughts and concepts in situations of business, spiritual gatherings, charitable events, and just plain fun times. The success of those talks came from those seeds of focus embedded by Grant Frazer in my freshman year. I also thank him and his lovely wife for taking our small group of dormitory denizens (Sturtevant House) under their protective and loving wing through the Kennedy assassination sadness and horror.
~ Curtis Mays '66
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