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An appropriate way to show a professor you care?

  1. Feb 9, 2015 #1
    Let me begin by saying that this is probably not in the right forum, but I couldn't find a better place for it.

    One of the best professors in our physics department (and the newest) just lost his wife to cancer in November. He's currently my E&M II professor, and so I spend a lot of time in his office asking questions about the homework (which is typical). He's very impersonal, and didn't even tell anybody that he lost his wife when it happened.

    Anyway, I can tell it's starting to wear on him. He has two kids (one 8-ish, one 5-ish). He brought in his little daughter today and she sat at the back of class, I think she was sick and couldn't go to school, and he didn't have another option.

    He's very serious and impersonal as I said, but I'd really like to do something for him. But as a female student that's half his age, I don't want to do anything that would be considered inappropriate (like baking him cookies or something), you know? Not really to show him that I care, but just to make things a bit easier for him.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2015 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    You want to discuss the matter with his collegues and other grad students ... however, there is not usually much you can do that is appropriate.
    If you are not in a grad school associated with him then you may not see what is already being done.

    Fortunately you are a scientist so sticking your nose in where it does not belong is in your job description.
    You may need to remind people who tell you to mind your own business, if you feel brave.
  4. Feb 10, 2015 #3
    I should specify, my department is very small. Only undergrad, and about 8 professors. I'm only a junior in undergrad.
  5. Feb 10, 2015 #4

    Simon Bridge

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    Then you have 7 profs to talk to.
  6. Feb 10, 2015 #5
    What's wrong with baking cookies? It's a small gesture that might mean a lot to him. If I were in the prof's position, I would certainly appreciate it.

    I once had a prof who became very ill. I sent him a get-well card to show I care. He really appreciated the gesture.

    The thing is that your department is small, so you likely have a very solid contact with your profs. That makes a gesture by you even more meaningful. I would go for the cookies.
  7. Feb 10, 2015 #6
    If he didn't tell people. There is a chance he doesn't want people to know, or just doesn't want to talk about it.

    You could on the other hand bake cookies to thank him simply for being a good prof!
  8. Feb 11, 2015 #7


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    Suggestion: A group effort to express appreciation for your prof might be better. If everybody in the class got together to do something nice for him then it might make him a lot happier, and have less chance of being misunderstood.

    I don't know what the group could do. A card signed by everybody and some small gift might be appropriate. Maybe the first thing the class could do is figure out what a good action would be.
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