Inspired by a former colleague's written remembrance of his tenure at the University of Iowa, McPherson looks back on the University's historic receptiveness to non-white students and his own experience serving on the faculty of the Writers' Workshop. He reflects on the attitudes and mores that create a sense of community before settling on the concept of the pneuma, Greek for “the vital spirit of life itself.” He contrasts the racially polarized South, where he grew up, began his writing career, and had his daughter, with Iowa City, where he and his daughter have formed lasting relationships with McPherson's students and colleagues from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds. A willingness to learn from cultural difference has guided McPherson as a teacher and a father, and it offers hope for the evolution of a more integrated American society.

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