LC in History: A Lasting Impact

Dr. Clifton W. Potter Jr., LC History Professor~

It was both with relief and trepidation I learned that because of my performance on the entrance exams I could satisfy the first-year English requirement by taking an accelerated three-hour course, instead of the regular six-hour sequence. I felt relief that I would have a three-hour elective and trepidation that covering a year’s work in a semester might prove daunting. I decided to accept the challenge. Thus, I met Dr. Ellis Shorb, who taught at Lynchburg College from 1954 to 1963; in that short time he left a lasting positive impression on hundreds of students, because he was not only a master teacher, but also a remarkable man who had led a very adventurous life.

During World War II, Dr. Shorb had been part of a bomber crew that was forced to ditch their plane. The surviving members were captured and sent to German prisoner of war camps; Lieutenant Shorb was sent to one for officers. It must have been close to the Atlantic coast, because with a group of fellow prisoners he escaped and “borrowed” a boat to try to cross the North Sea. Rescued by a British naval vessel, Lieutenant Shorb soon resumed dropping bombs on strategic German targets.  At war’s end, he took advantage of the new G.I. Bill to complete his graduate studies.

Ellis Shorb, Lynchburg College English professor. Retrieved from Lynchburg College Archives.

Ellis Shorb, Lynchburg College English professor. Retrieved from Lynchburg College Archives.

Ellis and Marjorie Shorb lived close to the college, and he rode his bike to and from campus every day; Ellis Shorb was fit before it was fashionable. He taught a very demanding first-year English course. On the first day of class he gave us a list of 25 books we should have read before we entered college. I had read only one—Alice in Wonderland—but by the end of the year I had read most of them. I thought that I had received a thorough grounding in English grammar in high school, but thanks to Dr. Shorb I learned that I had only barely scratched the surface.

In the spring semester, I took the second half of English literature under Dr. Shorb, and it was here that he really shone as a master teacher. I had enjoyed British literature as a senior in high school, but he introduced concepts and ideas that had never occurred to us. His specialty was Romantic literature, and I almost learned to like the works of Lord Byron. At the end of the semester, everyone with an A average was excused from the exam. It was his final gift to me; I was never able to work another one of his courses into my schedule. When Dr. Shorb left LC I was in graduate school, but I did have a chance to say goodbye to him and Mrs. Shorb.  Unfortunately, I never saw them again.