FARMINGTON — High school teacher Ewan Good always sought to instill intellectual curiosity and a love of learning in his students.
But he never imagined his modest work at Mt. Blue High School would one day be acknowledged by a top American university.
Good, who teaches French and German, has been recognized by Cornell University as a teacher who has made a unique contribution to the life of one of the college's top graduates, a former Mt. Blue student who Good taught seven years ago.
To bring the accolades full circle, not only has Good's teaching inspired Cornell graduate Jason Ramsey of New Sharon, it also resulted in a $4,000 scholarship for an East Dixfield boy who is now a Cornell freshman.
The scholarship was offered to Zach Hernandez, a 2010 Mt. Blue graduate studying animal science.
Hernandez, in a phone interview from Cornell, said he was unaware until now of the background of the $4,000 Special Teachers Are Recognized scholarship listed on his financial aid package and had no idea he was benefiting from a connection between a former Mt. Blue student and the teacher who inspired him.
Hernandez said his dream is to become a large-animal veterinarian and return to the Franklin County area to practice.
“I really wanted to go to Cornell, and I appreciate the financial aid package they offered. I wouldn't have been able to go here if not for that,” he said.
Hernandez said he had never had a class with Good.
The connection between Good and Ramsey, who was the 2003 Mt. Blue valedictorian, also surprised Good, who had Ramsey in only one honors-level class, French 4, seven years ago.
“This came out of the blue,” Good said about learning he was included in Cornell's Merrill Presidential Scholars Program.
“When I first got an e-mail from Cornell, I wrote back, thinking there had been a mistake,” he said with a smile. “They assured me there was no mistake.”
Ramsey, who graduated from Cornell earlier this year as a film major in the top 1 percent of his class, is now working as an intern through the Cornell in Hollywood program and has a job with director Elizabeth Allen in Los Angeles. He started out at Cornell as a biology major.
“The classroom environment that Ewan created was all about connecting with his students,” Ramsey wrote in an e-mail. “It was an environment of mutual respect and camaraderie, something that is quite rare at the high school level.”
He said Good would often touch upon his students' plans for the future, noting that he himself was also hoping to further his education. Good has since earned a master's degree in French from the University of Maine.
“In a way, we were all learning, growing and chasing our dreams together,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey wrote that Good's class was the one that prepared him the most for the rigors of a liberal arts education at Cornell.
“The course was challenging and demanding, to be sure, but it was really his honest, passionate approach to teaching that cultivated a ... love of learning within me,” he said.
Good recalls that the honors French class was small but especially strong. The dozen or so students displayed a great curiosity in learning, they connected well with each other and had a good work ethic, he said.
“Jason was extremely bright, warm, friendly and very polite. But he was also humble, had integrity and always had a good sense of humor,” he said.
In class, Good said he introduced students to French poetry, literature, history and film and challenged them to analyze and discuss what they were learning.
One particular movie generated an emotional reaction and made a lasting impression on Ramsey, steering him toward a career in film, according to Good.
The film was Louis Malle's award-winning autobiographical classic, “Au Revoir Les Enfants.” The 1987 movie took place during World War II when the headmaster of Malle's Catholic boarding school decided to shield Jewish children in the midst of Nazi-occupied France to tragic repercussions.
According to Cornell, Ramsey was an active member of the Ithaca Church of Christ, where he helped found a youth coffeehouse and outreach program. He also worked on a BBC documentary, among other accomplishments.
The students are selected for the program for their outstanding scholastic achievement, strong leadership ability and potential for contributing to society.
The STAR Scholarship was created in 1989 by the Don Berens family and is supported by alumni and donations.