And now for another first: the first student -- or, really, anyone -- to request a letter of recommendation from me. Fortunately, it was a student I (a) honestly recognized and (b) would be happy to recommend for most anything. And the student did things right, having all the needed information to make it easy -- the proper form (in this case just a plain old text file I could fill in and print out), the deadline (critically important), and the full data on to whom to address it. All I had to do was evaluate the student's scholarly attitude, personality, and likeliness to participate in the cultural opportunities offered by the summer program. I was kind of guessing on the last one.
I recognize the need for and utility of letters of recommendation, but there is an unavoidable barrier between instructor and student; I only see the ``professional'' face. That's a great face in this case and I like the person so far as I've seen, but I did feel a bit dishonest answering the question. I know how the student acts in and around class, and teaches other students, and prepares homeworks. I don't know what the student does for fun, or out of habit, or for fear of failure or for hope of success. But those sorts of doubts are inappropriate for a letter of recommendation, so I'll leave them here instead.
Trivia: Edward Hyde, the Lord Cornbury, 1661-1723, first Royal Governor of the Colony of New Jersey, was the first known recipient of a bribe in what would become the Garden State. The year was 1703; the amount, 100 pounds. Source: Jerseyana: The Underside of New Jersey History, Marc Mappen.
Currently Reading: The Origins and Development of the English Language, Thomas Pyles and John Algeo.