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Memories of Malcolm

Mr. Malcolm and his bowling ball “Edna”

I received the sad news last week that one of my high school science teachers, David Malcolm, died unexpectedly. He was only 68. I’m glad I was able to attend his retirement party a few years ago, especially since I couldn’t attend his memorial service.

I had Mr. Malcolm for Freshman Science and A.P. Physics at St. Vincent High School. He loved his students and he loved teaching. He didn’t just teach science; he also tried to instill life lessons whenever he could. This would occasionally lead to the “Malcolm rant” where it’s best to put your head down and wait for the storm to pass. I seem to remember him often saying “Life’s not fair.” His tests for Freshman Science were challenging, and he made sure we knew that he didn’t give us our grades but we earned them and all the whining from parents wouldn’t change that.

I always called Mr. Malcolm “Malcolm” because that’s how he referred to himself. My locker was right next to Malcolm’s classroom during my senior year. I was usually at my locker as he was heading into his room every morning and I would greet him with an exuberant, “Morning Malcolm!” and he would grumble back, “Morning Miss Carter.” He wasn’t mean; he just wasn’t a morning person. But he was always willing to help me if I had a physics question before school. He cared that we learned the material so he would work with us to figure out an answer instead of just doing the work for us.

I have one unique memory of Malcolm. After the A.P. Chemistry test, we basically got to play around and do cool science stuff for the last three weeks of the year. Malcolm had a Freshman Science class across the hall during the same period as A.P. Chemistry. I remember one morning his classroom door and the chemistry room door were open. I sat on the floor and scooted across the hall until I was sitting in his doorway and watched him teach, at least until he caught me and sent me back. He understood and respected teenage playfulness.

Thanks for the memories Malcolm! I’m sorry we had so little time with you. In your words, “God bless.” Your family is in my thoughts.


Photo courtesy of St. Vincent High School


  1. As I remember him, Mr. Malcolm always had a smile on his face (or perhaps a wry frown) and took life’s challenges in stride. The last time I went back to visit St. Vincent’s, he was lecturing his class with a microphone — something he’d never done when I was a student. When he saw me standing by the door, he quipped, “I have the voice of God now.” Then there were all the Three Stooges jokes, Wallace & Gromit… I could go on. Mr. Malcolm was a truly jolly man and a delightful teacher. He will be missed.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Oh yes – Wallace and Gromit . . . and bad lawyer jokes. Good memories.

  2. Darvin DeShazer says:

    FYI: Edna is still in the room and in stationary morning. But we’re sure she will roll again when the pain subsides! Thanks for sharing your memories Ruth.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Oh my goodness – that is so sweet. The story of Edna’s kidnapping is legendary. I’m sure whomever gets her will love her just as Malcolm did.

  3. Nate Castillo says:

    For some unkown reason Mr. Malcolm took me on as his TA for two periods my senior year. The first time he left me in charge of a class he told me that aslong as nobody was bleeding and everybody appeared to be working when he got back he didn’t care what happened while he was gone. Also when I asked him if I could throw stuff at the Fresman science students he very empatically said “NO! that is I pleasure I reserve for myself.”

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      I love it! That’s so Malcolm.

  4. Shane DeMiglio says:

    He will be missed, but not forgotten. I think I remember him telling us that light had momentum, but not mass, and people scratching their heads. I remember the Malcolm rants, but I’m not sure if I recall much of the content of these very well at the moment…except that I believe Winston Churchill often found his way in, and that Mr. Malcolm would often start of a thought “Granted,…” and there was Simon Pass echoing the sentiment “Graanted!”…oh .and ofcourse Wallace and Gromit, and mentioned the saying a few times, “Do what you like, but like what you do.”

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      I agree he will be missed but not forgotten. I didn’t remember he saying “Granted” all the time, but now that you mention it, it’s totally true!

  5. Sara Hopkins says:

    [I know I am late to the party on the blog, but I knew within a matter of hours that Mr. Malcolm had passed. I was so grateful that my parents were able to attend his memorial–as I wasn’t–and show support for him and his family, just as they have done for us for so many years…]

    Mr. Malcolm was the perfect kind of teacher–the kind of teacher that made *me* want to be a teacher. As a transfer student, I never had him for freshman science, and as someone with an affinity for literature instead of experiments, I never took AP Chemistry or Physics (what all you smart people took when I finally showed up at SV). Instead, I got to take Environmental Science, which was, well, it was for us “regular” folks. 🙂 Mr. Malcolm was no less enthusiastic about this class. He expected hard work and encouraged discourse, even when we kept asking the same questions over and over again. He made our time in the classroom fun–and for most of us that was a blessing, because we had never really considered anything to do with science “fun.”

    I relished my time with Mr. Malcolm. I marveled at the way he inspired *all* students: the “smart” students as well as the struggling students. He added a lightness and humor to the classroom that is hard to come by as a teacher (and even harder to appreciate as a student). When I think back to all of the teachers that led by example, who (sometimes unknowingly) guided me on my own path to teaching, an inordinate number of them taught at St. Vincent. Mr. Malcolm was one of those teachers. I will never forget the mark he left on me as a student, and the ways in which he continues to mark me today as I do my own teaching.

    A final thought: although my brother has rather moved into bizarre “legend” status at SV, he was a sincere challenge and pain-in-the-ass (while also being strangely engaging and endearing). True to St. Vincent faculty style, Mr. Malcolm was one of the many teachers who took Tim in stride, held him accountable, and treasured his quirks. I will always be grateful for the way Mr. Malcolm and the rest of the faculty treated my brother, and the ways in which they have continued to honor and remember him, even after all these years.

    Thanks for writing and sharing your memories, Ruth.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories Sara! I think Malcolm encouraged students to question the truth and challenge the possibilities. He liked it when students thought for themselves. I remember he often helped up set up problems in a way that would lead us to the answer but wouldn’t do all the work for us. I loved that about him. He made us think and I think he appreciated the students who tried to rise to the challenge regardless of what class he was teaching.