Ben challenged every student in his philosophy class to question long-held assumptions and a make a change. I remember a couple of nuggets of wisdom he shared:
- If the Duke admissions office could be disbanded and applications chosen at random, Duke's freshman class would not likely be noticeably different for it.
- There is nothing particularly admirable in and of itself about being a professional, for professionalism is merely excellence at a skill, not a sign of moral integrity. A skill can be directed toward good or toward ill. Ben deeply believed that a true education was one that improved a person on a deep, moral level.
- It was sometime around then, Fall 1992, that Ben announced he had begun teaching himself Arabic with a few hours of study each morning. Before long he was teaching it to Duke students.
Identified as almost supernaturally brilliant, Ben left Montgomery, Alabama, at a very young age to be educated in Berkeley. So he knew what it was like to be a long way from home and to feel a bit out of place. He took that experience, I believe, and decided to make himself in adulthood an available friend and family member to every student he encountered. I will always think of Ben as someone sent to remind us that we are valued, we have gifts, and we belong. He treated each of us like prodigies. Isn't that how we should treat every person we meet in this world? Thank you, Ben, for leading through example.