Dear Dr. Cayton,
Hello--we've never met, but your husband was my absolute favorite professor during my time at Miami University in the early 2000s. I was just flipping through the latest issue of my alumni magazine and saw the terribly sad news about his passing late last year, and I just wanted to reach out to you to tell you how sorry I was to hear it and to let you know what fond memories I have of his classes. I had him in History 111 my freshman year and pretty much took every class of his that my schedule allowed from then on b/c they were just so much fun. I've always loved history, and I actually entered college intending to be a high school history teacher. I shifted focus to pursue a career in journalism pretty early on, but ended up keeping history as a double major, in part b/c I enjoyed Dr. Cayton's classes so much and wanted to keep taking them! I distinctly remember emailing him directly, begging to get in on his class about the American Revolution--if memory serves, I had my eye on it since my first year and it didn't come around until my junior year, and I got shut out! I'm not sure how many panicked emails he got from history nerds begging to get into classes, but he made it happen. He also kindly replied when I emailed him after I graduated seeking some advice as I considered going back to grad school for an advanced degree in history (I started to sour on journalism when I realized part way through a post-graduation internship at a local paper that I wasn't actually that crazy about being a reporter.)
I've been lucky in life to have some very good teachers and a small handful of truly great ones, and Dr. Cayton was one of the true greats. He's one of maybe two college professors I still talk about some 15 years later, usually in the context of "my favorite history professor always used to say..." when my husband (and fellow history buff) and I are having some kind of history-based discussion. He used to talk a lot in class about how we study history with the benefit of knowing the outcome, but to always remember that people lived through these events having no idea what was going to happen. No one has ever articulated that idea so clearly, and it's stuck with me ever since as something that made the study of history vivid and alive. I remember him so fondly and wish you and your family my deepest sympathies.
Jackie Gubeno Fitch
Class of 2004