Forgotten Names

I’ve always prized myself on my ability to turn a phrase. Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” – Albus Dumbledoore

Two weeks ago, I misspoke failed to recall a colleague’s name.  I apologised profusely, and in the process realised part of my guilt was a disconnect between my public persona and my ‘true face.’ Those who know me tend to say I’m quite fluent with words, and that might be true for all I know. What I do know is I have anomia aphasia. My personal challenge is nouns; as far back as I recall I’ve struggled to talk around random nouns eluding me.

So you see, I am not actually good at words. I am good at talking around the word(s) I’ve forgotten. Incongruously, my weakness leads my speech and writing to be rather flowery; people mistake my stumblings for eloquence.

Being a teaching professor for about a decade, I have come to recognise our students buy into the ‘mystique’ of professing. Students believe our skills, when demonstrated, represent some innate, natural-born talent rather than hard won skill or even theatrical smoke and mirrors.

Easier to believe in magic, some days, than believe patient, painstaking practice is the only solution. Easier to believe in magic, because wizards (myself included) greatly dislike the pulling back of our curtains.

There is no shame in the artistry of performance. I enjoy trying to deliver interesting lectures and intriguing convocation speeches for my students and colleagues. I even enjoyed this year of writing blogs, and I’m thankful for the kind words several people have given us! It took and takes a lot of work to create this blog, it has been a labour of love for all of us here at CAPE.

Still, when the performance is over, there is one last step. It is not enough to transmit only our knowledge, wisdom, and passion. In the quintessentially human act of honestly telling our stories, we show our students our unflinching conviction that we do not idly profess our truths. I know my students can learn, because I did. I know my colleagues become a little more excellent every day, because their struggle is my struggle.

I do not always remember words well, and I doubt that struggle will ever be over. I will most likely forget your name at some point, and might even call you by the wrong one in front of several people. For when that has and will happen, I apologise.

As for the rest of the time, well, I look forward to doing my best to use words to make our world better. And, through our stories, I look forward to learning what makes your journey fascinating.



Matt Wiley is a tenured, associate professor of mathematics with awards in both mathematics education and honour student engagement. He earned an assortment of degrees in computer science, business, and pure mathematics from the University of California and Texas A&M systems. He is the director of quality enhancement at Victoria College, assisting in the development and implementation of a comprehensive assessment program to enhance institutional performance outcomes. A programmer, a published author, a mathematician, and a transformational leader, Matt has always melded his passion for writing with his joy of logical problem solving and data science. From the boardroom to the classroom, he enjoys finding dynamic ways to partner with interdisciplinary and diverse teams to make complex ideas and projects understandable and solvable.

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