John Wren, the South High football coach who died suddenly on July 2, 2013, was one of my favorite students at CSUB.
He belonged to a rare subset of the student athlete: those who have talents beyond sports. Other members include Andrew Luck of Stanford with a degree in architecture; Rhodes Scholar Khris Khristopherson of Pomona College; and Tommy Lee Jones, a 175 lb. offensive lineman for Harvard (cum laude in English) in its 28-28 rout of Yale. The controversial Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders earned a degree in English at Syracuse and reportedly spent off days with non-football friends discussing literature.
John worked his way through CSUB, where he was an English major. He once earned an A+ on a very effective paper. He was articulate and loved literature (not every student in my literature classes loved literature).
I especially appreciated having John in my American literature class because he was a class leader. He got excited about Stephen Crane. He spoke up, asked interesting questions, and helped move class discussions. He never tried to dominate a discussion or put someone down.
This poem by Emily Dickinson could serve as John’s epitaph:
The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth—
The Sweeping up the Hearth
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
-Victor Lasseter, Emeritus Professor of English, CSUB