It’s with great sadness and not a few tears that I say goodbye to Steve Gey, someone I never met in person but who nonetheless had a huge influence on my life. Steve was a professor at the Florida State University law school and one of the preeminent First Amendment scholars in the country. He was one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in Edwards v Aguillard, the case that ruled creation science out of public school science classrooms.
A little over 4 years ago, Steve was diagnosed with ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, and he had to give up teaching about a year later. He was, according to everyone I’ve ever talked to who took his course, one of the most inspiring teachers in the country. He was revered and adored by colleagues and students alike for his brilliance and his humanity.
Shortly after he was diagnosed with ALS I was able to arrange for him to receive the Friend of Darwin award from the National Center for Science Education. I called Glenn Branch to ask about it and he said that the board had, in fact, just voted unanimously to give him that award but they hadn’t yet found a venue in which to give it to him (they typically like to ambush people who win the award and give it to them when they don’t expect it).
I told Glenn I knew of the perfect time to do it. A group of his students were running a triathlon a few days later to raise money for ALS research in his name and they were going to be having a banquet afterwards. The NCSE rushed the award down to a friend of mine, who was one of Steve’s students and dearest friends. She was so happy to be able to present that award to him.
The country has lost one of its finest teachers and one of its most powerful advocates for civil liberties. And a great many people have lost a man who inspired them.