I very nearly dropped out, fearing I would be made fun of or made to feel that I shouldn't be there. I was an English major, just not the type Galdikas was addressing. I persevered and am very glad I did.
I had no idea that this rather abrupt and assertive professor was a renowned primatologist, known the world over as one of Leakey's Angels (a term she coined).
Louis Leakey was a world-famous archaeologist, known for his work in Oldavi gorge in Kenya, work in which he found and documented links in human evolution. He appointed three women to carry on some of his work, especially with primates and all three became famous. Dian Fossey lived and eventually died for her work with mountain gorillas. Jane Goodall is a feature on shows about chimpanzees. Birute Galdikas works for the understanding and preservation of orangutans.
Of the three women, Galdikas is probably the least famous as a media star, as she has concentrated her efforts for nearly 40 years on preservation, living in Borneo caring for and studying the orangutans and trying to prevent the demise of both the species and individuals. She is also a professor at Simon Fraser University, my alma mater.
Galdikas's lectures always fascinated me, as she ranged wide in her discussions of evolution, primates, and human ancestors. And my interest was authentic, but only at the most general level.
I did what any self-respecting English major would do. I more or less memorized the textbook. Short-term memory stuff. I no longer remember how many molars of what type with how many bumps Australopithecus afarensis has, but am glad I know why such knowledge is important.
Definitely one of the most memorable courses of my undergraduate years.
And Dr. Galdikas, if you ever happen to read this, I got an "A," I was an English major, but it was hard work - and work I don't regret doing.