Mr. Clough

Brad Roth
3 min readOct 20
Stephen Clough, from the 1975 Homestead Jr.-Sr. High School Yearbook.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

Henry Adams

How does someone end up being coauthor on a textbook like Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology? It takes a lot of friends, teachers, and role models who help you along the way. I had many excellent teachers when I was young. One of the best was Stephen Clough.

I attended grades 7–10 at Homestead Junior-Senior High School. Usually a junior high and senior high are in separate buildings, but the suburb of Fort Wayne where I lived at the time was new and growing, and had the two combined. For two years (I think grades 9 and 10) I had English with Mr. Clough. He was one of the younger teachers and had longish hair and a mustache, and I thought he was little bit of a hippie. That’s OK, because in the mid 70s hippies were still groovy (although they would go out of fashion soon).

Before I had Mr. Clough, I didn’t read much. I was obsessed with baseball and would read an occasional sports biography, but not much else. I did well in school, but I don’t remember our classes being too challenging or having much homework. Life was about hanging around with friends, playing ping pong, riding bikes, listening to music, and watching television. But Mr. Clough had us reading modern fiction, like Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies. For me, this was an intellectual awakening. Before Mr. Clough I rarely read books; after Mr. Clough I read all the time (and still do).

Me (age 15) from the 1975 Homestead Jr.-Sr. High School Yearbook.

I remember how, on Fridays, Mr. Clough would bring his guitar to school and play for us and sing. I thought this was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. None of my other teachers related to us like that. He played a lot of Dylan. I’ll never forget the day he explained what the words meant in the song American Pie.

Mr. Clough had a huge influence on my academic development. Reading books led to reading the scientific writing of Isaac Asimov, which led to majoring in physics in college, which led to a PhD, which ultimately led to becoming a coauthor of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology. I owe him much.

As Henry Adams said, a teacher affects eternity. I hope everyone teaching a class using IPMB keeps that in mind. You can never tell where your influence stops.

I last saw Mr. Clough at my 30th high school reunion. My friend from high school, Dave Small, became an opera singer, and he sang several songs for us at the gathering. Guess who accompanied him on the guitar? Stephen Clough.

American Pie, by Don McLean.

Originally published at

Brad Roth

Professor of Physics at Oakland University and coauthor of the textbook Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.