In Memory of Mitch Dorson, Who Taught Me Compassion


I’ve had good reason to remember my long-ago years spent living in Tucson these last few days. Those years were difficult ones for my family in many ways, and that time of my life often feels incredibly distant and foreign; so much has happened since I lived in the desert, and the person I am now barely resembles the girl I was then. As time passes, though, I find that I’m able to reflect on that part of my history with ever-increasing warmth and fondness. Though we only lived in Arizona for about five years, the relationships I created during my time there have grown and evolved in ways I never could have anticipated.

This past week, I’ve been enjoying a visit from my dear Tucsonian friend, Kristian who is moving to Seattle with his family next month (hooray!), and we’ve had plenty of the requisite “Remember that time when…” conversations. There aren’t many people I’m still close to from my Arizona life, so treasuring these nostalgic conversations over dinner and wine really does serve as good medicine for me.

Having both attended Catalina Foothills High School, Kristian and I were devastated to receive the incredibly sad news that one of our most beloved teachers, Mitch Dorson, has just recently and unexpectedly passed away. Mr. Dorson was one of the most influential teachers I had the opportunity to learn from, but beyond being the most passionate educator one could imagine, he was—most importantly—the kindest man an impressionable kid could hope to meet. After passing through Mr. Dorson’s US History class, I went on to TA for him, soaking up every single bit of his extremely contagious energy for teaching. It was as his TA, talking together after class each day, when I saw in him the model of what I hoped to one day be: A person who possesses equal parts passion and compassion.

 Mr. Dorson encouraged my inquisitive nature, cultivated in me what was at the time just a tiny, burgeoning seed of curiosity for how things work in the world. He taught me to stand up for what I believe, to never be afraid to speak up for what’s right no matter what I come up against in life. He taught me to develop my mind, cultivate my intellect as if it were my only lifelong friend.

 I sit here today, and realize that I’ve been able to follow in Mr. Dorson’s footsteps more than I could have ever imagined. I still love to learn every single day, and teach others what I can. And I strive to keep that compassionate drive riding right alongside the passion I feel for my own interests and aims. But beyond how Mr. Dorson might have shaped and molded me into the woman I am today, I’ve seen over the last few days just how broad his reach truly was. All over the country and indeed the world, Mr. Dorson’s former students have come together in our collective grief over a man who taught us all tolerance and persistence, kindness and righteousness. The messages of mourning posted on Facebook have been strikingly similar, each one expressing just how unforgettable his presence was in all our lives. I know that for myself, and for Kristian, this loss is a significant one, and we’ll be toasting in his honor while we reminisce about the good old days at dinner tonight.

Mr. Dorson was one of the most influential people in my life at the most impressionable age, and I owe him immense gratitude for teaching me lessons that I hold close to my heart even now. What an incredible mind, what an incredible man.


4 thoughts on “In Memory of Mitch Dorson, Who Taught Me Compassion

  1. Mr. Dorson taught my daughter at his last teaching post, Green Fields Country Day School and was a dear family friend for 40 years. You eloquently captured the feeling at her school and at the memorial service on Wednesday that was attended by 700 or so friends, family, students, former students, colleagues, and fellow temple congregants. Thank you for your kind words and for perpetuating Mitch’s legacy. Btw, his son also resides in Seattle.

  2. This is a wonderful article. Beautiful. May we all sleep well knowing that such undivided and genuine love is real and ever present in this world.

    • Noah, my heart is with you and your family in this loss. As one fatherless child to another, and as someone who truly and genuinely adored your father, I wholeheartedly offer you whatever you might need in the way of friendship and support and a local supplier of matzoh ball soup. Though the pull of others to share your grief must be overwhelming, there’s a kind of magic in it, too.

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