Nigel Adams, A History Teacher Known For Challenging His Students

Nigel Adams, who challenged thousands of Green River Community College students with his teaching, died Thursday at his Enumclaw home of cancer. He was 51.

Adams taught history at the Auburn college for 23 years and was known for his advocacy of students and his teaching techniques.

``That's what kept him going through his illness,'' said his wife, Patricia. ``He loved to challenge his students. More than anything, he wanted them to think. It didn't matter what side they took, so long as they thought about it.''

Adams taught a variety of courses in history and economics, including American, Northwest and Central American history. But his most popular classes were innovative courses such as the history of the 1950s and 1960s and a history of the Vietnam War. In the Vietnam class, he brought in guest speakers ranging from former American prisoners of war to former Vietnamese nationals, Patricia Adams said.

Last year, he showed his support of students by refusing an administration directive to remove graffiti and posters from a classroom wall. He had encouraged their displays as expressions of their heroes and struggles. Three other walls also were filled, and the administration and student government members said that was enough.

The wall came down, but Patricia Adams said students rebuilt it Thursday as a memorial to their professor.

Adams also was recently involved in erecting monuments marking the Holden Mine in the community of Holden, his birthplace near the north end of Lake Chelan. And he helped establish a spiritual retreat center in the area.

An active member of the community, Adams was involved in Democratic politics; the American Federation of Teachers, which he helped bring to the community college campus; and was past president of the Enumclaw Kiwanis and lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis division. He also was a Renton Scoutmaster and Little League baseball coach and referee. In 1986, he received the Auburn Chamber of Commerce award for outstanding service to education.

In addition to his wife, of Enumclaw, Adams is survived by his sons, Darin, of Sumner, and Eric, of Enumclaw; a sister, Janet Westom, of Seattle; a grandson, Christopher, of Sumner; and an aunt, Emma Locker, of Kirkland.

A public memorial service will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Green River Community College. Memorial contributions may be sent to the American Cancer Society or the Holden Vision Fund, Holden Village, Chelan, Wa. 98816.