Bill Fleischman taught his final class at the University of Delaware last night.
This makes me incredibly sad.
All journalists discover role models along the way; people who help make them who they are. Although there have been many writers who have influenced my career, either with strong words (Catherine Mayhew of The Tennessean) or strong leadership (Neal Scarbrough, also of The Tennessean, and Bill Colson of SI) or strong chops (too many to count), I’ve really only had two true, longterm mentors; people who began as teachers and, along the way, morphed into friends/peers.
One was Joe Lombardi, my first-ever editor of any kind at the Patent Trader in Cross River, N.Y.
The second was Bill Fleischman.
Not that I call him Bill Fleischman. Or Bill. Or Fleischman. I called him “Professor Flesichman” on Day One, and I’ll call him “Professor Flesichman” as long as we’re both around. It’s a matter of respect, but … much more than that. Professor Fleischman was the longtime Flyers writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, which means—beginning with that first class my sophomore year at UD—I knew he was someone who’d been where I wanted to go. He brought authenticity to school; possessed a level of knowledge and understanding I was desperate to attain. While some of the other teachers had been journalists long ago, often at some podunk paper in Podunkville, Professor Flesichman was big time.
And yet, he never, ever, ever, ever acted as such. He was a humble, decent, big-hearted man who wanted the students to see what he did. He insisted that making it in journalism was possible, but that it took hard work and effort. He brought in some amazing guest speakers, and introduced me to one of my all-time favorite books, Gene Wojciechowski’s Pond Scum and Vultures (If you’re a sports writer or an aspiring sports writer, trust me on this one. Hell, it’s one cent on Amazon). Most important, he stood by me when I behaved as a complete-and-total punkass college know-it-all. That couldn’t have been easy.